One reason team executives and coaching staffs aren’t too keen on tournaments like the World Cup of Hockey is the fear one of their top players might get hurt playing in a meaningless – to them anyway – exhibition. If, for example, the Capitals lost Alex Ovechkin for any significant duration due to an injury playing in the World Cup, Washington’s chances to compete for a Stanley Cup would take a major hit. So general managers and head coaches nervously watch these games with the hope that no one gets injured and thus consequently derailing a team’s playoff hopes.
We’re just one warm-up game and a handful of practices into the tournament and already have seen a number of injury scares to key players. Here’s a quick rundown.
- Vladimir Sobotka of the Czech Republic was injured in Thursday’s game with Team Russia and according to early reports, was transported to the hospital with an apparent shoulder/clavicle injury. Tom Gulitti of NHL.com later reported that x-rays were negative and that there was a chance Sobotka would be available for Saturday’s return tilt against Russia. However, Gulitti followed up via Twitter this morning and said that Sobotka is indeed out for tomorrow’s contest. Roman Cervenka would have ultimately replaced Sobotka in the lineup but he won’t be available in time to suit up tomorrow. Instead the Czechs will be forced to ice seven defensemen and 11 forwards. Sobotka has spent the past two seasons in the KHL but was expected to return to North America and the Blues for the 2016-17 campaign. After losing Troy Brouwer and David Backes to free agency, the hope was Sobotka would be able to pick up some of the slack in St. Louis. Even though he may miss some time in the World Cup, the early indications are the injury isn’t too severe, much to the relief of the Blues and their fans.
- The Chicago Blackhawks experienced a bit of a scare when Marian Hossa left Team Europe’s game against Team North America after a puck struck his right foot causing the veteran Slovak to sit out the third period. But after a quick trip to the hospital revealed just a bruise, Hossa is expected to continue on in the tournament though he might still sit out future World Cup exhibition games as a precaution, according to Scott Powers writing for The Athletic. The 37-year-old Hossa, whose offensive output dropped last season to just 33 points in 64 games, is still a vital cog in the Chicago lineup due to his outstanding two-way play.
- Earlier it was reported that superstar goaltender Henrik Lundqvist may have injured himself while on a golf outing ahead of the World Cup of Hockey. However it was later revealed he took a shot to the ribs during a practice and that he was indeed good to go for the tournament. According to Dan Rosen of NHL.com (via Twitter), Lundqvist is in fact expected to get the start between the pipes tomorrow and play the whole game for Team Sweden.
- The news isn’t quite as good for fellow Swede and Chicago Blackhawks forward Marcus Kruger. Again according to Rosen, Kruger suffered an upper body injury which caused the pivot to miss the final 7:39 of regulation and all of OT in the game against Finland (both links via Twitter). With Kruger out for tomorrow’s contest, Team Sweden will insert Mikael Backlund into the lineup in Kruger’s place. Backlund, of course, was added to the Swedish roster as a replacement for Henrik Zetterberg.