For the moment, the Vancouver Canucks are treating their decimated defence corps as a blessing in disguise.
The Canucks headed into Thursday's road game against the Nashville Predators with a nine-point lead over the Detroit Red Wings for first place in the National Hockey League's Western Conference, so having a full fleet of defencemen sidelined is not as ominous as it would be for clubs in postseason dogfights. The Canucks are a lock to make the playoffs, and likely won't slide past second place unless struck by an unfathomable skid, so this is hardly situation critical.
General manager Mike Gillis has consistently said the unprecedented rash of injuries - a half-dozen players have fallen in a three-week span - has given the organization a chance to look at its young defencemen on the farm, and given those players an opportunity to show their NHL mettle.
Indeed, against the Predators, the Canucks dressed three rookies on the blueline. Evan Oberg became the 13th rearguard to see action this season, joining fellow freshmen Chris Tanev and Yann Sauvé, who had played just 13 combined NHL games.
Gillis's tune could change, however, if someone suffers a setback in recovery and is lost into the postseason, or if heavy legs and lost chemistry among pairs plague some of his defencemen come mid-April. After all, Vancouver's top six have not played a single game together this year.
The carnage began on Jan. 24 against the Dallas Stars when Alexander Edler tweaked a back injury, and continued through Tuesday's 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild, when Kevin Bieksa broke a foot while blocking a shot. In that 22-day span, the Canucks lost six defencemen to injury, yet posted a 7-2 record and extended their lead atop the West.
Here's a look at the wounded and when they are expected back:
Date of injury: Jan. 24
Injury: herniated disc in lower back
Return: early April
Status: Edler underwent back surgery on Jan. 31 and has not begun skating. The Canucks are hoping he returns toward the end of the season and knocks some rust off before the playoffs.
Date of injury: Feb. 3
Injury: broken foot
Return: early March
Status: Sweatt broke his foot in practice during a brief call-up to the Canucks. The team wanted to return him to the minors, but was forced to put him on the NHL long-term injured list.
Date of injury: Feb. 7
Injury: mild knee sprain
Return: next week
Status: It was a gruesome injury on the eyes, but mercifully not to Ballard's right knee. He is ahead of schedule and the team expects that he will start practising soon.
Date of injury: Feb. 9
Return: out indefinitely
Status: Technically, the Canucks say he is out until further notice because of the unpredictable nature of concussions. But Hamhuis is back skating, and all signs point to a return next week.
Date of injury: Feb. 14
Injury: broken wrist
Expected return date: early April
Status: Alberts underwent surgery this week and is lost for six to eight weeks. He suffered the injury blocking a shot.
Date of injury: Feb. 15
Injury: hairline foot fracture
Return: early March
Status: It took two sets of scans before the fracture in Bieksa's left foot was discovered. He should return in ample time for the playoffs.Report Typo/Error