St. Louis Blues And Other NHL Teams Fight Through Early-Season Injuries

By Jacob Messing

With the puck set to drop October 4 for the new NHL season, a handful of injuries suffered during the preseason may hinder some teams getting off to a hot start.

The spate of injuries -- some of which require long roads to recovery, others of which are day-to-day affairs -- has pushed many teams to either enter training camp with increased focus on younger talent, or to leave training camp and enter the season hoping newcomers will step into suddenly-vacant roles.

Kris Letang and Steven Stamkos are healthy and ready to go. Erik Karlsson seems to be ahead of schedule. But some teams -- most notably the St. Louis Blues -- may need to dig deep into the prospect pool entering October.

St. Louis Blues

Jay Bouwmeester | D

Ankle | Status: 3 weeks

The 33-year-old veteran has missed just 21 games over the past four seasons, and even though his offensive game has declined in that time, he has remained a major part of the Blues’ sturdy defense.

Bouwmeester’s initially recovery timeline is projected to be three weeks for his broken ankle, any longer and St. Louis could begin to fall behind in the gauntlet of the Central Division. The Canadian is most frequently paired with Alex Pietrangelo, a player poised to reach the pinnacle of his abilities; that should be a lot easier to do when Bouwmeester is back in action.

Alex Steen | C

Hand | Status: remainder of preseason

The 33-year-old Steen has had trouble staying healthy throughout his 12-year career, and is now in jeopardy of missing the start of the regular season next week. He’s a significant part of the forward group, and any long-term injury would further deplete an already-shorthanded team.

Steen’s two-way game and scoring punch will put more pressure on guys including Vladimir Tarasenko, newcomer Brayden Schenn, and Jaden Schwartz, to name a few. Steen logs lots of ice time and should rebound from a less-than-stellar 2016-17 season.

Robby Fabbri | C

Knee | Status: unknown

In his first game since tearing his ACL in February, Fabbri re-injured the same knee Friday night. The latest update has been somewhat vague -- Fabbri will miss the rest of preseason -- and Blues fans the aggravation will be on the less-serious side.

The 21-year-old ran a solid rookie campaign with 18 goals and 37 points in 2015-16. When the sophomore slump struck Fabbri at the beginning of last season, he responded with a hot streak in December and January -- six goals and 12 assists -- before succumbing to injury in early February. As a former first-round pick, Fabbri boasts a high ceiling and has shown the ability to keep up with hockey’s best and score big goals.

Zach Sanford | LW

Shoulder | Status: 5-6 months

Acquired in the Kevin Shattenkirk trade in March, Sanford has shown flashes of NHL-ready talent, recording five points in 13 games with St. Louis. The 22-year-old former second-round pick was in a battle for a regular spot in a deep Blues’ forward group before dislocating his shoulder.

At 6-foot-4, he towers over opponents and uses his long reach to create turnovers, which helped him record 20 goals and 63 points in 79 games with Boston College. He scored 11 goals and 16 points in 25 games with the Hershey Bears during his rookie professional season last year.

Individuals

Tyler Bertuzzi | LW | Detroit Red Wings

Wrist | Status: 3-4 weeks

Bertuzzi, 22, was probably a lock to make the roster out of camp before wrist inflammation ended his efforts prematurely. With a blossoming arsenal of offensive abilities, he’s shedding his label as an energy-only player while maintaining his grit and tenacity.

Bertuzzi scored 12 goals and 37 points in 48 games in his second year with the Grand Rapids Griffins last season. He followed it up with nine goals and 19 points in as many playoff games to help the Griffins capture the 2017 Calder Cup, where he won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the postseason MVP.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson | D | Arizona Coyotes

Knee | Status: day-to-day

After a career year with 55 points in 75 games, Ekman-Larsson went through a tough 2016-17 season both on and off the ice. He recorded his lowest point total (39) since 2011-12 (32), and his lowest goal total in a full season (12) while playing through the knowledge that his mother was losing a battle to cancer that claimed her in April.

The 26-year-old is the prime candidate to take over the captaincy this season and leads an impressive backend on an overhauled Coyotes roster. Any substantial time without Ekman-Larsson will delay the effects of general manager John Chayka’s dedication to the future.

Zach Parise | LW | Minnesota Wild

Back | Status: day-to-day

Last year was a lost season for Parise, who has now seen a decrease in goals, assists, and points over the past two campaigns while finishing with an uncharacteristic minus-3 in each of those efforts.

Now 33, Parise’s prime years are behind him, but a solid Minnesota farm system and upcoming youth could help the American get back to his 25-goal, 60-point capability -- pending, of course, health, which has been a problem the past four seasons. Parise said he’s on the road to being 100 percent, but will be cautious moving forward.

Colin White | C | Ottawa Senators

Wrist | Status: 6-8 weeks

One of the brightest prospects for last year’s surprising Senators, a strong rookie season from the 20-year-old would have added to the team’s score-by-committee offense. White scored 35 goals and 76 points in 72 games with Boston College.

The American joined the AHL’s Binghamton Senators at the end of the season, scoring a goal and three points in five games. He was all but set to join his NHL side full-time before breaking his wrist, and now he won’t return to action until mid-November at the earliest.


Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.

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