With the preseason dragging on more slowly than Jared Cowen’s contract negotiations, you’d think seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (we’re less than two weeks away!) would be enough to give everyone the warm fuzzies.
Not so fast…
Conspicuously absent from yesterday morning’s Senators’ practice were Craig Anderson, Milan Michalek and Eric Gryba.
Good old "maintenance" days for Anderson and Michalek.— Wayne Scanlan (@HockeyScanner) September 23, 2013
I’m not too sure what’s ailing Gryba, the injury suffered during camp still has not been disclosed. Regardless, as the team’s sixth or seventh defenceman, his absence isn’t nearly as bothersome as that of Anderson or Michalek.
Granted, it’s probably way too early to overreact to Anderson and Michalek missing practice for ‘maintenance days’. But, in the case of Anderson, there is some added intrigue thanks to Paul MacLean’s comments postgame comments following Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Toronto (re: Anderson did not finish the game. He left after two periods and Andrew Hammond took Anderson’s spot on Ottawa’s bench as the backup goaltender for the remainder of Thursday’s 3-2 loss.)
“He wasn’t going to play the third period, so we took him out and put Hammond there,” said MacLean. “(Hammond) couldn’t play unless the other guy (Lawson) got hurt.”
Like Gryba, nothing has been disclosed regarding Anderson’s health, however, given the team’s guarded approach, it’s safe to assume that he’s battling some kind of nagging injury or something less serious like the flu.
Again, hopefully it’s nothing too serious because Thursday’s game versus Toronto has been Andy’s only preseason appearance. Getting him back and adjusted before the start of the season would be ideal; especially since goaltending was one of the team’s strengths last season. You’d like to see the tandem of Lehner and Anderson be ready to go without any disruption or hiccups in their preparation for the season.
In Michalek’s case, hearing that he is missing time already isn’t surprising in the least. His chronic knee problems are well documented and led to him seeking blood serum therapy treatment in Germany this offseason. The procedure, popularized by the health and production that Kobe Bryant had following his own treatment, was explained to SenatorsExtra.com by Michalek’s agent, Alan Walsh.
“What they do is they pull blood out of the patient,” Walsh said. “Then they spin it to separate out a blood protein (white blood cells) called leukocyte. Once they separate the leukocytes, they heat it and Dr. Wehling, who invented the procedure, mixes the leukocytes with a proprietary serum that is then re-injected into the site.”
Michalek’s amassed quite the number of man-games lost due to injury over the past few years. He has missed sixteen or more regular season games in three of Ottawa’s past four seasons - including 25 of 48 last season. And as fans, we’ve kind of grown used to watching Michalek play at less than 100-percent.
Gone are those San Jose days when you could see Milan blow by defenders and create scoring chances alone with his speed.
Even if he’s taking it easy for precautionary reasons, it’s difficult to believe that these maintenance days won’t be a recurring thing for Michalek throughout the course of the season.
When his body isn’t falling apart faster than a Maple Leafs game seven lead, Michalek can be a decent supplementary player who can play a two-way game and play in any situation, but the Sens are counting upon him to play a significant role on the team’s top line with Bobby Ryan and Jason Spezza.
If he can’t stay on the ice, the Senators are going to have to rely upon their depth to fill that role. Colin Greening affords the Sens some flexibility (and as fantastic as it would be to create a top nine spot for Jean-Gabriel Pageau), the reality of the situation is that Greening simply isn’t as productive of a player.
They’ll need to keep Michalek on the ice to fulfill Eugene’s prophecy of, “If we stay healthy or marginally healthy, we’re going to go deep.”
As much as the Sens are relying upon Michalek to stay healthy, he has some added incentive to stay in the lineup. Slated to hit UFA in July, an injury-plagued season will be the only thing that prevents him from cashing in on what probably will be his last big payday on the open market. (It feels weird to say that considering I’m talking about a player who’s just 28 years old!)
At some point the organization will need to decide whether guys like Pageau and Stone are going to get that top 6 chance. Time continues to tick by on ELC's and there are still some very talented players that haven't gotten that shot. Even Mika will need some time to see if he can play at that level. I don't think third line minutes are going to cut it for these fellas. Maybe some absence from Milan now will allow us to evaluate a proper replacement for next year, assuming the organisation decides not to resign.
the great michalek debate... can he stay healthy. the bigger debate: if he stayed healthy he'd commend to much salary to re-sign if he can't then the organization will part ways. trading him after his 35 goal season might have been the best decision that was never made, would the organization trade him now with another prospect to grab someone else? if he can start the season healthy might be an option.
michalek + for Vanek? dare to dream...
@CptErin2000 Thanks for pointing that out.