The NHL season is already more than a quarter finished for most teams, and one thing is abundantly clear: Injuries will play an outsized role in who makes it to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The difference between No. 1 seed New Jersey and the eighth-seeded New York Rangers entering play Thursday was just five points. The difference between the Rangers and the last-place Capitals was the same. One night can spell disaster for almost any team with everybody bunched together.
So it goes for the Ottawa Senators, who lost star defenseman Erik Karlsson for the season when his Achilles tendon was sliced by a skate in Wednesday's loss to Pittsburgh. The reigning Norris Trophy winner led all NHL defensemen with six goals. Even though the tendon wasn't severed -- it was a 70 percent cut -- he won't return until training camp. And all that for a team that is already without Jason Spezza (back surgery), its top forward.
In a sprint to the playoffs, prepare for quick rises and falls. There just isn't enough time to recover.
- Brian McNally