The Walking Wounded

The regular season is just around the corner, but several NHL teams are alreadyh dealing with significant injuries. Here are some of the players who will have to watch from the sidelines when the season gets underway, and their temporary replacements.

Sergei Zubov - D - Dallas Stars

Zubov underwent arthroscopic surgery on his hip a couple of weeks ago and will not be available to return to the Dallas lineup until late October or mid-November. The offensive blueliner struggled through foot and groin injuries last season, limiting him to 46 games. Zubov will be re-evaluated in the coming weeks to see how he is responding to the treatment.

Who is in line to replace him?

Philippe Boucher is the obvious choice, but he was struck with the injury bug last year and is currently nursing a foot injury. If he is ready to go for the start of the season, he should soak up Zubov's power play minutes. However, if he continues to miss action, look for Stephane Robidas to resume his offensive role from the end of last campaign, anchoring the Stars' man advantage unit. Robidas was excellent for Dallas down the stretch in 2007/08 and he was sensational in the playoffs, recording 11 points in 18 games.

Sergei Gonchar - D - Pittsburgh Penguins
Ryan Whitney - D - Pittsburgh Penguins

Gonchar suffered an injured shoulder in pre-season action that will require surgery to correct. He is expected to miss a whopping four-to-six months of action as a result. His offensive prowess and poise on the blueline will definitely be missed. Whitney will also begin the 2008/09 season on the shelf for Pittsburgh. He went under the knife in mid-August to repair an injured foot. Whitney may be able to return to the Penguins' lineup in mid-November at the earliest.

Who is in line to replace them?

Youngsters Alex Goligoski and Kristopher Letang are projected to fill out the Pittsburgh defense corps, as well as factor prominently in the team's offense. Goligoski is the man Pittsburgh has penciled in to see top line minutes and quarterback the power play. Letang should also see time with the man advantage, as he has experience in that role. Either way, Pittsburgh will look to Goligoski and Letang for offense from their back end, as the majority of their remaining defenders lack offensive promise.

Erik Johnson - D - St. Louis Blues

Johnson sustained a torn ACL on the golf course when his right foot got caught between the accelerator and the brake in the golf cart. The freak injury will sideline the young defenseman for six to nine months, effectively shutting down his season. He was expected to continue his development this campaign in St. Louis and help anchor the team's blueline.

Who is in line to replace him?

Rookie Alex Pietrangelo may have a legitimate shot to crack the team's defense corps this season as a result of the injury. He has displayed a solid offensive touch in the pre-season, and is sound defensively. However, he may still be sent back to the juniors to better serve his development. Eric Brewer will likely be called upon to pick up the slack for the Blues. He was named the St. Louis captain this off-season and will be counted on for minutes, points, and leadership this year.

Justin Williams - W - Carolina Hurricanes

Williams suffered a torn achilles tendon in an off-ice workout two weeks ago. He needed surgery to repair the problem and will subsequently be out for four-to-six months. As well, Williams was sidelined for the greater part of last season with a knee injury. He does have offensive talent as a top-six forward on Carolina, but cannot seem to stay healthy.

Who is in line to replace him?

Tuomo Ruutu and Patrick Eaves will likely move up the depth chart on the Hurricanes as result of this injury. Both may be tried on the Carolina top line with Ray Whitney and Eric Staal, which will significantly increase their fantasy value. Eaves likely has the inside track on the job, as he possesses more point potential than the rugged Ruutu.

Torrey Mitchell - C - San Jose Sharks

The Sharks' sophomore endured a broken leg in exhibition action that will keep him sidelined for approximately eight weeks. Mitchell was slotted to serve as the team's third line center this season.

Who is in line to replace him?

Marcel Goc and Tomas Plihal will likely be utilized in Mitchell's place. Fellow second year player Devin Setoguchi should also see some increased ice time, as he has more offensive talent than Goc and Plihal. San Jose will still rely on their top two lines for offense though, so this injury should not impact the team that much.

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