NHL Injury Update: 5 stars who are ready to return
When the NHL season resumes with a 24-team playoff in late July or early August, these five players – who may have missed some or all of the postseason under the old schedule – will be able to contribute toward their team’s Stanley Cup run.
5. Vladimir Tarasenko
Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored 33 goals in each of the last two seasons, played only 10 games for the defending champion Blues this year before undergoing shoulder surgery on Oct. 29. The optimistic estimate was that he’d be ready for the start of the postseason. But now Tarasenko, who scored 11 goals for St. Louis in last year’s playoffs, will be fully recuperated for sure.
4. Steven Stamkos
When the Lightning went 23-2-1 from Dec. 23 to Feb. 17, Steven Stamkos was on a tear of his own, scoring 32 points. But, partially due to Stamkos’ core muscle injury suffered at the end of February, Tampa limped to a 3-6-1 finish to the regular season. He was initially ruled out for 6-8 weeks, meaning he could miss the first round of the playoffs, but that won’t be the case now.
3. Chris Kreider
On the trading block for most of the regular season, the Rangers decided to keep Chris Kreider and extend his contract at the last minute. That decision appeared unwise (even as the Rangers kept climbing toward the eighth seed in the East) just a few days later as Kreider suffered a fractured foot on Feb. 28. He was scheduled to be out for 4-6 weeks, putting him in jeopardy of missing some postseason games, but Kreider will definitely be ready for the Blueshirts’ play-in matchup with the Hurricanes.
2. Dougie Hamilton
Hurricane blueliner Dougie Hamilton was having a career-year (40 points in 47 games, career-high for points is 50) before fracturing his fibula on Jan. 16. His "early-April" return date would have made it a close call for the start of the postseason, but now he’ll surely be ready for Carolina’s first-round matchup with the Rangers.
1. Jake Guentzel
The casual NHL fan wouldn’t believe it, but Penguins forward Jake Guentzel leads his team in goals over the last two seasons (60). Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, they’ve had to play without him since late December due to a shoulder injury that was originally believed to be season-ending. But head coach Mike Sullivan is "encouraged" with the progress Guentzel is making, and the long gap before the start of the postseason has given him ample time to rehabilitate.