NHL teams banking on these 10 players to return from injury

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Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks in action against the Anaheim Ducks in game seven of the Western Conference Finals in Anaheim, California, on May 30, 2015.  AFP file photo

Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks in action against the Anaheim Ducks in game seven of the Western Conference Finals in Anaheim, California, on May 30, 2015.
AFP file photo

With the regular season winding down, here are 10 injured player causing the most consternation for potential playoff teams:

1. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks expect Crawford to be ready for the playoffs and his return can’t come soon enough. The team has looked out of sync with Crawford recovering from an undisclosed injury. “He’s had his best year,” said NBC analyst Eddie Olczyk. “He’s an underrated piece of the team’s success. Goaltending has nothing to do with the team’s ups and downs over the last 26 games. That position has been a strength.”

2. Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning: Stralman is out with a broken leg and will not be ready for the start of the playoffs. Losing a player of his caliber is always difficult, and it’s made worse with the timing of his injury. Stralman’s poise and relentless defensive play were a major factor in helping the Lightning reach the Stanley Cup Final last season. With 81 playoff games logged over the past four seasons, Stralman has the equivalent of an advanced degree in postseason competition.

3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins: How are the Penguins playing at such a high level without Malkin? The team was 5-4-1 without him earlier in the season. Now they are 7-1, and will not get Malkin back until late in the first round or second round of the playoffs. Malkin was averaging more than a point per game when he went down. But Sidney Crosby has picked up the slack and is back among the league’s best players.


4. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars: Since Seguin was sidelined with a cut Achilles tendon this month, the Stars are 3-1 and still holding the top spot in the Central Division. Winning the division is important if you want to avoid meeting the defending champion Blackhawks in the first round. It’s been helpful that Jason Spezza has had a quality season.

5. Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders: Since Halak suffered a groin injury on March 8, the Islanders are 3-5-2 and their playoff spot is less secure. His backup, Thomas Greiss, has won one of seven starts since Halak went down. Jean-Francois Berube has stepped in to record two important wins. Halak’s return is expected during the first round of the playoffs.

6. David Perron, Anaheim Ducks: He’s being listed as out week to week with a shoulder injury. This is a tough loss for the Ducks because his acquisition from the Penguins seemed to balance out the lines. He has 20 points in 28 games since the deal, and the Ducks are 21-5-2 since trading Carl Hagelin for Perron and Adam Clendening.

7. Erik Gudbranson, Florida Panthers: He is expected to miss his seventh consecutive game Tuesday but is expected to return soon. The Panthers boast one of the league’s best defensive teams, and Gudbranson is a crucial 20-minute defender on this team. He plays a heavy style that becomes even more valuable in the postseason.

8. Alex Steen, St. Louis Blues: Steen is expected to return Tuesday after missing 15 games with an upper-body injury. This important because he is a gritty two-way scoring forward. The Blues need him for what is expected to be a highly competitive Western Conference playoff.

9. Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: Duchene will miss his sixth consecutive game Tuesday and Nathan MacKinnon will miss his fifth in a row. Both have knee injuries. The Avs are 4-2 in their last six, and they remain three points out of a playoff spot.

10. Olli Maatta, Penguins: He’s only 21, and he’s already had more than his share of injuries and illnesses. He’s currently listed as week to week with a lower body injury. The Penguins keep winning, but their depth on defense isn’t such that they can overcome constant injuries at the position.

TNS

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