NHL’s injured reserve list growing with top players

Stamkos, Quick among the missing

Associated Press

Steven Stamkos, Taylor Hall, Johnny Gaudreau and Jonathan Quick: The NHL’s injured-reserve list could ice its own all-star lineup.

If it seems the league’s top talent is sidelined a quarter into the season, you’re not mistaken. No more is that aching trend apparent than in Buffalo, where five key Sabres players are out, including top centers Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly.

“I think the more injuries you have, obviously the harder it’s going to be,” said Sabres forward Evander Kane, who recently returned after missing 11 games with broken ribs. “But there’s no excuse. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you.”

Lightning players had a similar lament upon learning Stamkos was expected to miss four months with a torn ligament in his right knee.

“You can’t sit here and sulk,” forward Tyler Johnson said. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.”

While the Lightning have the experienced depth to potentially overcome an injury to their captain, other young and rebuilding teams don’t have that luxury.

One concern raised is whether the NHL’s condensed schedule might be contributing to the rash of injuries. Players have less downtime in a season that began a week later because of the World Cup of Hockey, and also has the league squeezing in its All-Star Game and a five- days-off week that teams cannot enjoy until the second half of the season.

Some teams could use that breather now.

“I think we have to look at the schedule,” said Flames coach Glen Gulutzan, assessing the growing number of injuries. “As a coach, you’re not sure what day it is half the time, if it’s a game day or a non-game day. But it’s a lot of games back to back. And it’s a lot of games for the players.”

The Flames, who will be without Gaudreau (broken finger) for six weeks, are in the midst of a six-game road swing covering nine days. It’s hardly any easier in the East. The Devils, minus Hall (left knee) are playing 14 games — including 10 on the road — in 27 days this month.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly disputed the notion that the league’s tightened schedule is leading to an increase in injuries.

“I certainly don’t think there is sufficient evidence that would suggest, much less demonstrate, that there has been a larger number of injuries this year than in the average year, or, more importantly, that any of the injuries that have been suffered to this point in the season had anything to do with the schedule,” Daly wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

In some cases that’s true. Eichel sprained his left ankle in practice a day before Buffalo’s season opener.

Quick, the Kings goalie, hurt his groin in Los Angeles’ season opener.

Without providing totals, Daly said, the number of man-games lost through Nov. 8 was up by a little more than 8 percent over last year.

However, he noted, this year’s total is either roughly the same or significantly less than five of the previous nine seasons. And this year’s total is higher by more than 10 percent than only two of the past nine seasons.

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