Hope for the best, be prepared for worst. That was the motto amongst New York Rangers' fans when Mats Zuccarello appeared in Sochi yesterday morning with his left hand wrapped in a bandage. Turns out, it's the worst, or pretty close to it at least.
An MRI taken in Russia revealed today the winger has a non-displaced fracture in his left hand. Zuccarello is returning to New York tomorrow for further examination, but as of now, there is no definitive timetable for his return.
In the case of a fractured hand, it typically takes 6-8 weeks for the average person to be cleared to return to physical activity, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. But, there's other factors at play in determining the recovery time, mainly: Will Zuccarello have surgery? And: Where exactly in his hand is the fracture? These are questions we don't have the answers to yet.
An examination of recent hand injuries in another professional sport reveals recovery time is all over the place. Recently in the NBA, Kyrie Irving missed over two months after breaking his hand. Kevin Love missed 3/4's of last season as a result of breaking his hand twice, and Carlos Boozer missed two months like Irving. But, Paul Pierce missed less than two weeks when he broke a bone in his hand earlier this year (per SBNation.com). In other words, it depends on the severity, and it depends on the specific athlete.
If Zuccarello's recovery time is more towards the 8 week end of the recovery scale, then it becomes even more likely that the Rangers will be active before the March 5th trade deadline. The Norwegian winger has emerged as a top-6 forward in this his 4th season in North America. He leads the Blueshirts with 43 points, and has become an integral part of the team's vastly improved power play.
A two month recovery timetable would mean Zuccarello is out the rest of the regular season, making it mandatory that the Rangers acquire some depth up front. If the 26-year old is out an extended period of time, it also would appear to make it somewhat less likely that captain Ryan Callahan is dealt. In the midst of a tight battle for a playoff spot in the east, the Blueshirts can ill-afford to be without two of their current top-9 forwards.
Unless of course, the return for Callahan was significant enough to make it worthwhile. But that's a story for another day.
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