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Ice Chips: Beware of the Rogue Golf Cart

September 29, 2008 | By Mike Chen | comment on this post

It’s easy to get distracted when operating a golf cart; just ask Erik Johnson.

Long-term injuries are the name of the game in the week preceding the NHL’s European opener. Here’s a quick list of the most notable ouchies faced by players:

  • In freak accident news, depending on who you talk to, Erik Johnson’s torn ACL and MCL are the result of either (a) an innocent, but freak golf-cart accident; (b) the result of stupid horseplay among young men; or (c) a fiendish attack by a golf-cart transformed into an evil leg-stomping robot. Whatever the case, Johnson’s basically gone for the season, so his power play points will go elsewhere on a thin St. Louis roster.
  • Carolina’s Justin Williams tore his right Achilles’ tendon. That’s bad news for a guy who only played 37 games last year. Stick him on your IR for a little bit, and even when he returns, he’ll be slow to get his skating legs back.
  • Pittsburgh’s Sergei Gonchar won’t be traveling over to Europe. In fact, he’ll be shuffling between doctors Monday as they decide the best thing to do for his separated shoulder: six-week rehab or six-month surgery recovery?
  • Speaking of Pittsburgh, the Penguins’ other offensive defenseman, Ryan Whitney, is still recovering from foot surgery until December. With Whitney and Gonchar out, who will run the Penguin power play? Evgeni Malkin has spent time at the point while Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski will get extended power play looks.
  • San Jose’s up-and-coming Torrey Mitchell – a shorthanded threat even as a rookie – broke his leg in a scrimmage and won’t be back until mid-November. He’s a depth player, though one to watch if you need shorthanded points.

And now some news and notes about who’s playing on what line thus far. Remember, it’s the preseason and there’s a good chance that things won’t necessarily stay this way, but here are a few things we’re watching:

  • In Vancouver, the Sedins are being flanked by young power forward Steve Bernier while Pavol Demitra’s trying to hold down a second line. If things don’t go well for a while, look for Demitra to be combined into a top unit.
  • In San Jose, Patrick Marleau’s bounce-back season is starting on Joe Thornton’s unit. He’s also been shifted to the point on the power play, a spot that served him well when ex-coach Ron Wilson tried it.
  • Vincent Lecavalier is being eased into exhibition games after off-season shoulder surgery. Assuming he remains in the lineup, young Steven Stamkos has much less pressure going into opening night. Stamkos has been successful so far on a line with Radim Vrbata and Ryan Malone.
  • So far, Ken Hitchcock hasn’t played R.J. Umberger with Rick Nash. Instead, young Derrick Brassard is having a go with the former Rocket Richard winner while Hitchcock tries to create more scoring depth. However, if Brassard falters, look for Umberger to play with Nash and Kristian Huselius.
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