Friday, August 26, 2011
Ins and outs: Who will be ready for camp?
By Scott Burnside
Three weeks from now the doors will open on NHL training camps with physicals and the first on-ice sessions. Will some of the game's biggest stars and emerging young players be ready to go? Here's a look at some names that may or may not be ready to begin that journey.
Every day there seems to be a new rumor about Crosby's status for training camp, his ability to be ready for the season opener on Oct. 6 or whether he should retire completely. Bottom line for all the speculators and diviners of the truth is that no one knows where Crosby will be in three weeks or beyond. General manager Ray Shero told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Shelly Anderson Thursday Crosby is waiting for results from concussion specialists he saw in Georgia and Michigan, and they will make a plan moving forward. Shero did say Crosby has been on the ice this week in Nova Scotia and continues to work out. Crosby is expected to be in Pittsburgh when camp starts, Shero told the paper, but who knows if he will be on the ice. The only thing that is certain is that no one who's writing or speculating about Crosby has any real idea about the star center's future regardless of how definitive reports may have sounded.
The Chicago star's surgically repaired wrist may not be healing at exactly the rate that the team had hoped, as Kane told a Toronto radio station recently he wasn't sure about being ready for the start of camp. Kane did say he was optimistic he'd be ready when the season starts. The Blackhawks will be looking to avoid the tepid start to last season that saw them scrambling to make the playoffs on the final day of the regular season then bowing out to top seed Vancouver in seven games in the first round of the playoffs. Having a healthy Kane, who was second on the Hawks with 27 goals and 73 points this past season, will be crucial to getting the Hawks back to contender status.
The man who most folks expect to be named the captain of the Flyers is still recovering from offseason back surgery and a wrist injury that limited his effectiveness during the playoffs last spring. Pronger told reporters earlier in August that he was behind schedule in his rehab from both the back and hand injuries and wasn't sure about his availability for training camp. But GM Paul Holmgren, speaking to reporters Thursday after introducing new netminder Ilya Bryzgalov, remained confident that Pronger would be ready when the Flyers open the season against the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins on Oct. 6, even if he isn't ready for the start of camp.
Drew Doughty and his representatives haven't talked to the Kings in almost a month.
No, the former Norris Trophy nominee isn't injured, but his availability for the start of the Kings' training camp remains uncertain, thanks to a stalemate in contract talks. Doughty and his representatives haven't talked to the Kings in almost a month and the blue-chip defenseman will not attend camp until a contract is signed, agent Don Meehan told ESPN.com.
Much of the offseason discussion about the Oilers has focused on winger Taylor Hall and his recovery from an ankle injury that cut short his rookie season. Hall appears to be fine and ready to roll. But the bigger issue for an Oilers team hoping to make a surprise jump into the Western Conference playoff fray is the rehabilitation of Ryan Whitney from an ankle injury that derailed a breakout year for the big defenseman. Whitney had 27 points in 35 games for the Oilers at the time of his injury, and head coach Tom Renney told ESPN.com this week Whitney is their best blueliner and emerging into an important leader for the young Oilers. Whitney said in an interview that he had a minor setback in his recovery a couple of weeks ago but has no doubt he can return to the level of play he delivered a year ago.
"I know I can be the type of player I was in the first half of last year," Whitney said.
Lots of turnover in New Jersey, where new coach Pete DeBoer will be evaluating a handful of young defenders to make the Devils' opening-night roster. Among those candidates will be Taormina, who made the Devils out of camp a year ago but was lost to two non-displaced fractures to his ankle in mid-November. The former Providence College player whose puck-moving skills will be important to a rebuilding Devils team underwent surgery in January but took part in the team's prospect camp in July and should be ready to go when the Devils open camp.
Most observers give the Avs little chance of making the playoffs this season, but if they're going to surprise, it'll likely be with the help of a healthy Peter Mueller. Acquired from Phoenix at the 2010 trade deadline, Mueller made an immediate impact with 20 points in 15 games before missing the rest of the season with a concussion. He then missed all of the 2010-11 season after suffering another concussion in the team's first exhibition game. He told Adrian Dater of the Denver Post he's excited to put the concussion issues behind him. Mueller is expected to take team physicals on Sept. 16 and hit the ice the following day.
Speaking of the specter of concussions that continues to hover over the NHL, the Blues announced earlier this month that David Perron, who missed the rest of the season after being clipped by San Jose's Joe Thornton in early November, will not be ready for the start of training camp. Further, GM Doug Armstrong told Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that they were not counting on Perron for the start of the regular season, even though he was making some progress in his rehabilitation. Armstrong confirmed by email Friday that there has been no change to those plans.
The skilled center played in just two games for the Nashville Predators last season, and the risk that concussion issues would persist were enough for the dollar-conscious Preds to move Lombardi and his $3.5 million price tag for the next two seasons to the Leafs. GM Brian Burke told ESPN.com Friday it's too early to tell whether Lombardi will be ready for camp, although he said clearance to take part in camp workouts is a "distinct possibility." Likewise, the potential for Lombardi to join the Leafs for the start of the season is a distinct possibility, Burke wrote in an email.
The Ducks' netminder was enjoying a breakout year before suffering vertigo after All-Star weekend last January. He told reporters recently that those symptoms have disappeared and he is expecting to be ready to go for the Ducks' training camp. His progress will be key to helping the Ducks return to the playoffs. Hiller won 26 games for the Ducks and boasted an impressive .924 save percentage in spite of the fact he appeared in just three games after the All-Star break.