It’s been a tough month in Hockeytown as the Detroit Red Wings injury situation has taken a turn for the worse. The team lost two more players in Saturday’s bout with the Montreal Canadiens bringing their injured-reserve count to six.
Red Wings Injuries Pile Up in November
It started in late-October when team-leading goal scorer Thomas Vanek to a hip injury. Through the first seven games of the season with Vanek in the lineup, the team was scoring at an average rate of 3.4 goals per game played. Through the eleven games they played without him, the team scored at an average rate of 1.6 goals per game played. The Vanek injury was a tough pill to swallow.
Then, as if the Red Wings could afford to lose more energy, youngster Andreas Athanasiou fell to a sprained knee during the first period of a game against the Vancouver Canucks. Athanasiou, who just barely made the team this year, was wowing fans with his undying speed and highlight reel goals. This is one of those injuries that’s really tough on the player. It took him so long to crack the lineup and he was playing so well, earning himself an average of twelve minutes of ice time per game.
The silver lining in the Athanasiou injury is that Anthony Mantha was called up to fill the spot. Mantha started the season in Grand Rapids, despite having a strong enough pre-season to make the team. He’s since played seven games with the Red Wings and put up four points.
Darren Helm was then removed in the third period of the Red Wings’ November 15th game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He suffered a shoulder dislocation after being upended by Nikita Nesterov and would miss six weeks. Helm has a history of injuries. In 2012-13, he missed 81 games due to a back injury. He also missed half of the 2013-14 season. For the last two years, he’s finally been putting in full seasons.
Placing Helm on the injured-reserve prompted the team to call up Tyler Bertuzzi from Grand Rapids to take the spot in the lineup, but it didn’t take long for him to go down either.
Bertuzzi’s injury came in the second period of the Red Wings 2-1 overtime loss to the Canadiens on Saturday night. He was checked into the boards by Alexei Emelin and couldn’t back get up. His left knee buckled and he needed to be carried off the ice. This is not a good sign for a young player who was showing a lot of potential in his call-up games.
Fortunately, the injury didn’t appear to be as bad as it looked.
#RedWings Tyler Bertuzzi said left ankle injury not as bad as it looked. Might not miss that much time. Waiting for more test results.
— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) November 28, 2016
After a great showing at the World Cup of Hockey, the Red Wings expected big things from Alexey Marchenko this season. The young defensemen entered his sophomore season as a regular on the blueline paired mostly with Jonathan Ericsson.
Marchenko went out in the Wings’ November 20th game against the Calgary Flames. He took a hit from Micheal Ferland midway through the second period and didn’t return to the game. His injury is classified as “upper-body” and he’s only supposed to miss a couple of weeks.
So far, he’s had an okay start. It’s no where near how good the team wants or needs him to be, but it’s also not bad enough for him to be replaced by one of the young healthy scratches. Despite this, it still hurts to lose defensemen on a team that struggles so much defensively.
Brendan Smith sat out two games as a healthy scratch this month. When Marchenko went down, Smith drew back into the lineup. He only got to play in two games – both wins for the Red Wings – before falling to injury himself. It came during Saturday’s game against the Canadiens. Smith went knee-to-knee Phillip Danault and had to be helped off the ice. He will not require surgery, but he’s expected to miss four weeks. This should give Xavier Ouellet a chance to play a little more regularly, and he looked quite impressive Saturday night defensively.
In perhaps the biggest blow yet, Jimmy Howard was injured in Friday night’s contest against the New Jersey Devils. Howard has been the Red Wings superstar this year, posting a .940 save percentage and 1.88 goals against average through twelve games. The save percentage ranks fourth among goalies who have played in eight games or more. It’s exactly what a team who ranks 22nd in Goals For needs: a hot goalie to keep them in it. They may not have been getting all the wins, but Howard has been keeping them in games to at least give them a shot.
Howard is only expected to miss about a week and it’s widely believed that he’s nursing a groin injury, though it’s only been classified as “lower-body”. Howard has tweaked his groin more than once, which has caused him to miss long stretches of the season in the past. Coach Jeff Blashill seems to feel confident that this is not the case this time.
Up and Coming
With Howard out, Petr Mrazek takes the reigns in net. Mrazek has been off to a slow start this year, posting a .898 save percentage and 3.07 goals against average through thirteen games played. These are not the numbers you want to see for a goalie who has put up elite numbers in the past. This opportunity may be just what Mrazek needs to get back on track. He’ll be backed up by recent call-up Jared Coreau, who’s been leading the Grand Rapids Griffins to an 8-5-0 record through thirteen games played.
Perhaps the most interesting return will be Tomas Jurco’s. With Bertuzzi’s exit, Jurco’s conditioning stint in Grand Rapids will be cut short. Jurco underwent surgery on his back during the offseason and is finally ready to rejoin the team. In the past, he’s suffered from a lack of confidence due to constant shuffling of the lines and an inability to grasp his role on the team. He’s expected to make his season debut on Tuesday against the Dallas Stars.
Finally, Vanek has been back for four games and has already recorded an even strength assist. Gustav Nyquist seems to benefit the most from having him back in the lineup as their established chemistry has picked up right where it left off. Blashill has even experimented by putting Dylan Larkin on their line as a centerman.
To sum up, here’s a quick summary of all the Red Wings injuries right now:
Andreas Athanasiou – knee sprain – expected return week of November 28th
Darren Helm – dislocated shoulder – expected return week of January 2nd
Alexey Marchenko – upper-body injury – expected return week of December 12th
Jimmy Howard – lower body injury – expected return week of December 5th
Tyler Bertuzzi – high ankle sprain – expected return week of December 26th
Brendan Smith – knee injury – expected return week of December 26th
It’s been a tough November for the Red Wings. Their players are dropping like flies and they are still having a hard time scoring goals and winning games. This is a good opportunity for younger players to step up and show what they can bring to this team and this league.