If Not For Bad Luck...


Written on 11/03/2010 by Jim Cerny

In the cases of Penguins center Jordan Staal, individually, and the New Jersey Devils team, collectively, that old saying rings so true: If not for bad luck, they would not have any luck at all.

Case No. 1: Jordan Staal

Tonight, after missing the first 12 games of the season due to a miserable lingering infection in his foot that had plagued him since last spring, Staal was expected to return to the Pens lineup and center their second line.

Instead, Staal will once again be a spectator, and, no, not because the infection has reared its vicious self again. This time Staal will be sidelined due to a broken hand he suffered in practice the other day.

The latest estimate now pegs Staal's return as mid-December.

Staal has to be thinking "You've got to be kidding me!"

Remember this is a player who had never missed a game due to injury his entire four-year career until P.K. Subban's blade cut through his skate during the last spring's playoffs, causing the gash that cut a tendon in Staal's foot, leading to several operations and the ensuing nasty infection that robbed him of summer workouts and starting the season on time.

His brother Marc, the Rangers' defenseman, told me back in September that Jordan was going through "just a brutal" time dealing with the infection and being so far behind in his training. To miss training camp and the first 12 games had to be hell for a player who personifies the term "gamer".

Then with the reward for all of his patience and hard work right in sight, Staal is struck by a puck in practice, no less, and is set back another 6-8 weeks.

If not for bad luck, indeed.

Case No. 2, the New Jersey Devils

As if the Devils have not been a complete cluster-you-know-what since the whole Ilya Kovalchuk contract mess this past summer right on up through all of their injuries and horrible play under rookie coach John Maclean to start the season, now they find out that star winger Zach Parise will miss three months of action after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.

And in typical fashion for how their year is progressing, so far, Parise's injured knee was, at first, thought to be minor. Lou Lamoriello let it be known that something was bothering Parise and that exploratory arthroscopic surgery would find out the exact problem, correct it, and get Zach back on the ice in fairly short order.

Torn meniscus and a February return date were not exactly expected by anyone.

But the black cloud that has enveloped the Devils since late last summer knows no limits it seems. It covers everyone and everything in the organization, which is currently stumbling through a disasterous road trip en-route to a 3-9-1 start overall, and an Eastern Conference-worst 7 points.

There was the Kovalchuk contract mess that cost the team a hefty fine and much pain when deemed it first circumvented the league's salary cap. Then there is the case of how Kovy's current contract so ties Lamoriello's hands as far as the Cap goes that New Jersey was forced to play one game this season with only 9 forwards because injured and suspended players could not be replaced by call-ups because the team would have flown over the salary cap.

Then the injuries that have come in waves, picking off Bryce Salvador, Brian Rolston, Anton Volchenkov, and most recently Parise and rookie Jacob Josefson.

How about the sub-par play of nearly the entire roster---headed by Travis Zajac (4 points in 13 games), Jamie Langenbrunner (1 goal in 13 games), Patrick Elias (2 goals in 13 games), and Kovalchuk himself (3 goals in 12 games)?

And, of course, there was the one-game benching of Kovalchuk which sparked the Devils to an ugly 6-1 home-ice loss to the Buffalo Sabres, and only raised more questions about Maclean, the rookie head coach who is under serious fire right now

Finally a seemingly minor injury to Parise---a four-time 30-goal scorer, who netted 45 two years ago---turns into a three-month major problem.

If not for bad luck....

Follow Me On Twitter: @jimcerny and @thenyrangers

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