For those hoping the 113-day lockout would buy time for National Hockey League stars like Chris Pronger and Marc Savard to return to game action, the sad news is nothing has changed.
Sure, Pronger had plans to attend the Philadelphia Flyers’ condensed training camp this week, but as an observer only. Post-concussion syndrome has kept the 38-year-old defenceman idle since Nov. 19, 2011, and there are rumblings he’s played his final NHL game.
Like Pronger, the hopes of a return for the 35-year-old Savard from post-concussion syndrome appear slim. He hasn’t played an NHL game since the 2010-11 campaign when he was limited to 25 contests.
In October, the Boston Bruins centre said a comeback wasn’t in his “foreseeable future” and he has since expressed interest in coaching in the Ontario Hockey League.
For some of the NHL’s other elite performers, a return to action in what is expected to be a 48-season, starting Jan. 19, is anywhere from imminent to a couple of games away to a few weeks. An injury update on nine players plus those on Canadian squads is provided below.
NICKLAS BACKSTROM, C, Washington
The good news is Backstrom doesn’t have a concussion after missing 40 games last season with the same injury. The bad news is he’s still hampered by a sore neck incurred while playing for Dynamo Moscow of the KHL during the lockout that kept him off skates for two weeks.
Backstrom, 25, has averaged more than a point a game in three of the past four seasons.
DANIEL BRIERE, C, Philadelphia
It appears Briere will play less than a full season for the eighth straight season after spraining his left wrist and suffering a bone bruise while playing overseas in Germany.
The 35-year-old has said he only expects to miss a couple of games at most.
MATT DUCHENE, C, Colorado
Duchene, 21, will be looking for a strong start with the Avalanche after struggling late last season following a return from injury. A left injury sidelined him for more than six weeks as Colorado finished 24th of 30 teams in goals scored. Duchene had 14 goals and 28 points in 58 games.
MARIAN GABORIK, RW, NY Rangers
An injury concern for much of his NHL career, Gaborik will have a chance to play each game for the second season in a row after Rangers head coach John Tortorella proclaimed him ready to start the season following surgery on a torn labrum in the summer. Gaborik, 30, had 41 goals and 76 points in 82 games last year.
CLAUDE GIROUX, RW, Philadelphia
The Flyers’ star gave management and fans a scare in November when he suffered a neck injury while playing for Eisbaren Berlin in Germany.
The 25-year-old Giroux burst onto the scene last year with the Flyers, scoring 28 goals and 93 points in 77 games, a 17-point improvement over the previous season.
MARIAN HOSSA, RW, Chicago
A very important part of the Blackhawks offence, Hossa will be at training camp after being medically cleared in mid-December following his recovery from a concussion that ended his 2011-12 in the first round of the playoffs.
The 34-year-old Czech topped Chicago in assists (48) and points (77) last season.
ANZE KOPITAR, C, Los Angeles
The 25-year-old will miss two to three weeks after injuring his right knee while playing for Mora IK of Sweden’s Allsvenskan hockey league. Kopitar has played 30 games this season, so at least his conditioning should be fine upon his return.
VINCENT LECAVALIER, C, Tampa Bay
Some wonder if Steven Stamkos can score 35 goals in a 48-game season. Others are asking if his Lightning teammate Lecavalier can play 48 games.
A once durable player, Lecavalier has missed 35 games over the past two seasons due to injury. His goal production has also been a concern as Lecavalier hasn’t reached 30 goals in four seasons.
JONATHAN QUICK, G, Los Angeles
Even the defending Stanley Cup champions aren’t without some questions entering a shortened season. Quick, 26, played through a herniated disc in his back from March through the Kings’ successful run to a Cup championship before surgery was necessary after the disc developed a cyst. Quick was the NHL’s playoff MVP in 2012 after posting a 16-4 record, 1.41 goals-against average and .946 save percentage.
CALGARY — Centre Mikael Backlund might be in line for a promotion to the top forward line, but he’ll take a healthy 48-game season over almost anything. Injuries robbed the Swede of 40 games in the 2011-12 campaign. Backlund, 23, had 30 points in 23 games for VIK Vasteras in Sweden’s No. 2 league during the lockout.
EDMONTON — Eyes will remain on Oilers left-winger Taylor Hall, even after he collected 14 goals and 34 points in 26 games for the American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City Barons. The 20-year-old began the season late after he needed seven months of rehabilitation following shoulder surgery.
MONTREAL — Two-time NHL all-star defenceman Andrei Markov has played only 65 games the past three seasons, so injuries are always a concern. He was hurt during the lockout, missing seven games after breaking two ribs in an Oct. 26 game while playing for Vityaz Chekhov in Russia.
Canadiens teammate Tomas Plekanec (upper-body injury) could miss the first week of so of the season, while centre Blake Geoffrion faces an uncertain hockey future after suffering a depressed skull fracture during an American Hockey League game.
OTTAWA — Defenceman Jared Cowen, 21, will miss the shortened season after he had hip surgery in late 2012 to repair a torn labrum. The ninth overall pick in the 2009 NHL entry draft played 82 games last year and saw his role expand as the season progressed.
TORONTO — After missing a year following back surgeries and a subsequent lethal blood infection earlier in his career, Maple Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul was shelved the final four weeks of last season with a separated shoulder. Lupul, 29, had 67 points in 66 games before the injury.
Defence prospect Jake Gardiner is expected to attend part of a week-long training camp after missing about four weeks with whiplash/concussion symptoms.
VANCOUVER — Two-way forward Ryan Kesler could be out months, not weeks, following surgeries in May and June on his left shoulder and left wrist, respectively. The 28-year-old has played at least 77 games in each of the past five seasons.
WINNIPEG — Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian might spend the first month of the season completing his rehab following wrist surgery. Winnipeg will miss the 22-year-old’s size (six-foot-three, 215 pounds) and offensive skills (30 points last season).