As if Norway wasn't a big enough underdog in their do-or-die qualification round match this morning with the host Russians, they went into the game down their lone NHL player, Mats Zuccarello. Norway lost 4-0.
But the bigger story now becomes the status of the New York Rangers' Zuccarello. The Hobbit missed the game with a hand injury, and was later shown on the arena's jumbotron during the tilt with his left hand in a bandage, per Yahoo's Dmitry Chesnokov.
A bandage on the left hand is fairly nondescript. It could be anything from a bad bruise to a fracture, and everything in between. The Rangers will surely hope it's more towards the lighter end of that scale. Norway likely didn't expect to have any real chance at beating the Russians anyway, but for them to sit their best player in an elimination game suggests the injury was significant enough to hamper Zuccarello's abilities, and the scratch wasn't just for precautionary reasons.
To state the obvious, losing Zuccarello for any extended period of time would be devastating for the Rangers. The 26-year old has been the Blueshirts best forward since being made a healthy scratch early in the year, and leads the team with 43 points.
This is the peril of sending NHL players to the Olympics, as entertaining as it is to see the best players in the world on the same sheet of ice with something meaningful on the line. Just ask the Detroit Red Wings, who have already lost Henrik Zetterberg for an extended period of time during the games, and are watching every Pavel Datsyuk shift with bated breath, as the Russian tries to battle through a bum knee.
For now, we'll just have to wait and see what Zuccarello's status is. Expect an update from the Rangers at some point this week, regardless of the severity of the injury. The Blueshirts' first game back from the Olympic break still isn't for another 9 days, when they host Chicago on the 27th.
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