With the Sochi Games just 23 days away there are still several question marks amid USA Hockey's men's team. The injury bug infests NHL locker-rooms with regularity and does not discriminate. It bites MVPs and grinders and even Olympians. USA Hockey head coach Dan Bylsma knows this but that did not stop him from selecting several ailing players to his squad on New Year's Day. The belief was that they'd be healthy by the time the Torch was lit. But time is running out and that roll of the dice might not yield the results Bylsma was hoping for. Face it, 23 days is not that much time.
Here's the list of injured players that might not be able to make the trip to Mother Russia:
Paul Martin (D), Pittsburgh Penguins- Dan Bylsma saw his veteran defenseman break his tibia on November 23rd against the Boston Bruins. Martin has been staking with his team lately and, pending a doctor evaluate, might return to the ice as soon as Monday. For Martin's sake, he has to come back sooner than later. A broken leg means lots of rust and time's running out to shake it off. If Martin is not at game speed by early February, Bylsma might have a tough call to make.
Zach Parise (LW), Minnesota Wild- Earlier this year, Parise was slated to miss about two weeks with a foot issue but ended up skipping only a couple of days. That machismo might cost Parise another shot at a Gold Medal. As it turned out, that minor issue was a fractured foot. A tad serious, right? Parise has not played since late December and was expected to miss four weeks. He skated Monday, but that was a baby step not a leap. If Parise sticks to the original timetable, his first game back will be in Sochi. His effectiveness there . . . we'll see. Maybe.
Jimmy Howard (G), Detriot Red Wings- It's been a frustrating year for the stalwart Motor City netminder. A knee injury in December almost robbed him the start at the Winter Classic and a hip flexor is nagging his chances of playing in the Winter Olympics. Howard sat out the Red Wings Sunday matchup against the Anaheim Ducks with the injury but is expected to go Thursday verses the New York Rangers. To his credit, Howard has been battling through these setbacks but the Red Wings might not want to see their franchise player get even more banged up. Especially in Russia in a non-NHL setting. Don't be surprised if Howard doesn't appear between the pipes in Sochi.
Paul Stastny (C), Colorado Avalanche- This one's new and possibly dangerous considering how thin USA Hockey is at center. Stastny suffered a leg injury Saturday, didn't practice Monday, and is not expected to play Tuesday. That's a triple dose of bad news. the Avs list him as day-to-day and he was seen riding a stationary bike with some vigor, but heart rarely wins over body. Keep a close watch out for updates coming out of Colorado. Stastny is a candidate to anchor the top line.
USA Hockey's first game is February 13th against Slovakia. We'll see which Americans are healthy by then.
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