One by one, top NHL goaltenders are biting the dust. And this time there is no lockout to blame to the high volume of lower-body injuries.
New York Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist is just one example. He has been struggling with an apparent groin muscle strain for some time now.
Veteran back-up Martin Biron faltered as his fill-in – posting a .763 save percentage in two appearances – and then retired after the team waived him. Young Cam Talbot filled in for King Henrik instead.
Lundqvist is expected back in action soon.
“If this would have been a playoff game, he would probably be playing,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault told the New York Daily News. “It’s something that’s day-to-day that we think we can nip in the bud. It might take one more day, maybe two, but it’s something he should be able to turn the page on and you won’t hear about it anymore."
King Henrik sounded optimistic after Saturday's skate. "I'm not going to hide it, I definitely want to play Monday," he told reporters. "That's my goal."
Other prominent goaltenders were not as lucky. Here is the roundup:
Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes: He could miss the next month after suffering a leg injury at Minnesota. With back-up Anton Khudobin also shelved by a lower-body injury, Justin Peters will start and Mike Murphy will back him up.
Ward suffered a season-ending knee injury last season but had been rounding back into his usual workhorse form.
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators: Team management believed he had made a full recovery from his hip surgery. But he didn’t. An infection issue will sideline Rinne for at least a month, making Carter Hutton the new No. 1 goaltender and Magnus Hellberg his backup.
“Peks is one of our best players in this room. He’s a big part of our success,” forward Patric Hornqvist told the Tennessean. “But we have a good backup goalie, and he showed it tonight and he keeps working for the team.”
Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild: When starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom suffered a knee injury, Harding jumped in and allowed just eight goals in a nine-game span. Then he suffered a leg injury of his own while allowing his first goal in more than 100 minutes.
That forced Backstrom back into action for the first time in 16 days. “Sitting for a long time on the bench, it’s tough to be comfortable out there, but the guys helped me a lot,” he told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Tim Thomas, Florida Panthers: First he suffered a groin muscle strain that knocked him out for four games. Then Thomas, 39, returned from that injury only to land on injured reserve with a leg injury. Jacob Markstrom takes over as the starter and veteran Scott Clemmensen is up from the AHL as his backup.
“We're confident that he's not going to be long-term. He's a quick healer," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Unfortunate, but the short-term situation is we'll give (Clemmensen) a call, and goaltending depth is becoming a factor in our season already."
Viktor Fasth, Anaheim Ducks: He has been sidelined with a lower body injury, moving Frederik Andersen into the backup role behind Jonas Hiller. When healthy, Fasth was splitting the duties with Hiller – continuing the trend that started last season.
Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils: He is supposed to take over for franchise cornerstone Martin Brodeur. But a lower-body injury has interrupted that transition. Keith Kinkaid is up from Albany to take his place.
Schneider’s injury is not believed to be serious, so Kinkaid is up on a 48-hour recall under the goalie exemption rule.
“His lower body was bothering him. He should be okay,” Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello told NJ.com. “We used the goalie exemption rule. This had nothing to do with who is starting."
Tomas Vokoun, Pittsburgh Penguins: Last spring he took over for Marc-Andre Fleury in the playoffs, after Fleury suffered another postseason meltdown. Vokoun was supposed to press for a bigger role this season, but he will miss the bulk of it due to a blood-clotting condition.