Sunday, January 08, 2012

Injury Bug Bites Staal and Neal

The Pittsburgh Penguins currently sit in 8th spot in the Eastern Conference standings, having lost four games in a row and the news continues to get worse. The team has lost two of their top forwards, as both Jordan Staal and James Neal will now be out of the line-up for a significant period of time.   Losing both of these forwards will certainly put the Penguins hopes of making the playoffs in jeopardy, unless management can swing a deal or two to keep them afloat.

Staal suffered a knee injury earlier in the week, when the Penguins took on the Rangers, as he got caught with Mike Rupp on the ice.  It turns out that Staal suffered some significant damage to his knee and he is now expected to be out of the line-up for upwards of six weeks, which would put him back in the line-up around mid-February.

Staal leaves the line-up with 15 goals and 6 assists in 34 games with the club, good enough for 179th in pool scoring this season, which isn't bad, considering that he started the season on the shelf with an injury.  With the number of injuries Staal has suffered in his young career, he's getting consideration for the injury prone list.

As for Neal, he got caught blocking a shot in Saturday's game against the Devils, which ended up breaking his foot and now the Penguins' leading goal scorer will be out of the line-up for a few weeks.  There is no exact timetable for his return, but a broken foot can last between 3-to-6 weeks, usually ending up somewhere in the middle.

Neal leaves the team in 3rd in pool scoring, trailing only Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury in the race, having 21 goals and 15 assists in 40 games this year.  That is good enough to be 38th in overall pool scoring, so you can see, this is a pretty huge blow to a Penguins team that has already been without Sidney Crosby and Kristopher Letang and then losing Staal on top of it all.  For now, it will be on Malkin and Fleury to carry this team as far as it's going to go.

ImplicationsAs big as these injuries are (and they are huge), they don't necessarily apply to the money race in the pool, as Neal belongs to the 13th place team that belongs to Kristy and Don, while Wes M., who sits in 18th, has Staal.  Even a top 10 finish for both these teams is gradually becoming out of reach for these two teams and significant injuries like these and being four weeks away from the next waiver draft is not going to help their cause.  Injuries that have already occurred to both teams have already done their best to sink each pool team, this could just be the final nail in the coffin.

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