There is now a much clearer reason for why Bobby Ryan may have struggled to produce offensively on a consistent basis with the Ottawa Senators since November.
The right-winger will have sports hernia surgery on Thursday in Montreal to deal with an injury that has bothered him for much of the last four months.
"Bobby has been dealing with the discomfort of this injury since it was sustained in November," Senators general manager Bryan Murray said in a statement released by the NHL team. "Both Bobby and our medical staff were hopeful that we could hold off from having surgery until the completion of the season, but he aggravated the condition last Saturday in Dallas to the point that surgery is now the only option."
Ryan, 27, missed his first two games of the season earlier this week after only sitting out a combined three games in the previous four campaigns.
The former Anaheim Duck had an outstanding start to his first season in Ottawa with nine goals and 19 points in his first 17 games through Nov. 9.
"Well he certainly started very, very well," said Murray on the Senators team website. "He shoots the puck awfully well, he scored some goals, his line obviously carried the team early on. He was a big part of that.
"I think after the hernia started to get aggravated a little bit he seemed to shoot the puck a bit less. Overall, very happy and satisfied with his overall play and we know he'll be a real contributor going forward."
'Bobby has worked hard to play through this injury to help his team and his teammates, and had yet to miss a game this season prior to the injury progressing to this point.' - Senators GM Bryan Murray on forward Bobby Ryan
Ryan mustered only 29 points in 53 games since Nov. 9.
"Bobby has worked hard to play through this injury to help his team and his teammates, and had yet to miss a game this season prior to the injury progressing to this point," Murray said of Ryan, whose 23 goals this season leads the club.
Ryan's teammates were aware of the discomfort the winger was dealing with and offered their support.
"He battled through it and tried to work through it and it was something they were trying to give him help and he played well through it," said linemate Kyle Turris. "It will be nice when he's healthy and feeling better and able to get back at it.
"We knew it had been nagging him for a while and for him to battle through it and continue to try playing is something that we all respect him for."
Ryan topped 17 minutes of ice time in eight of his first 17 games but only 18 times since in 53 starts, an indication that his body couldn't handle the same workload.
"We're confident that he'll recover in time to have a full summer of training that will allow him to be back in our lineup and help this team be successful next season," said Murray.
In each of his first four 82-game NHL seasons, Ryan scored more than 30 goals, including a career-high 35 in the 2009-10 season, and was on track to do it again before suffering his latest injury.
Out of playoff mix
The Senators entered play Thursday out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, sitting 12th with a 29-29-14 record, eight points behind the eighth-place Detroit Red Wings.
It's believed the recovery time for sports hernia surgery is four to six weeks, meaning Ryan won't be in the conversation to play for the United States at the world hockey championship that runs May 9-25 in Minsk, Belarus.
Playing at less than 100 per cent for an extended period didn't hurt Ryan's desire to compete. It seems he would have had no issues competing at the Sochi Olympics in February, based on his disappointment in January at being left off the U.S. team's roster.
At the time, Ryan called out USA Hockey and director of player personnel Brian Burke for the way the process was publicized.
"It was kinda gutless," Ryan told a scrum of reporters. "I almost feel degraded when it comes out like that. It is what it is, that's their decision and that's how they feel about me."
Burke, who drafted Ryan in 2005 while GM of the Ducks, made some candid and disparaging remarks about the player leading up to the Olympic roster announcement.
"He is not intense. That word is not in his vocabulary," Burke said during one Olympic meeting, as quoted by ESPN.com. "It's never going to be in his vocabulary. He can't spell intense."
Burke also praised Ryan and his ability as a game-breaker, saying that while Max Pacioretty and Brandon Saad, other candidates for the American team, were both better 60-minute players, "neither can do what Bobby can do."
Ryan's injury has created an opportunity for Mark Stone, who was recalled from Binghamton in the American Hockey League last weekend.
Ottawa hosts the Florida Panthers on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET.