Injury bug biting playoff teams

(Clockwise from L-R) Henrik Zetterberg, Anze Kopitar, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Pronger, Sidney Crosby...

(Clockwise from L-R) Henrik Zetterberg, Anze Kopitar, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Pronger, Sidney Crosby and Ryan Callahan. (REUTERS/QMI AGENCY)

Sports Network

, Last Updated: 1:16 PM ET

TORONTO -- The road to the Stanley Cup is a staggering trek and adversity is part of the terrain.

Although several teams have fought through hardships all season, a rash of late-season injuries to some key players has changed the complexion of the NHL playoffs for others.

Anything can happen once the puck is dropped, but a healthy roster is paramount, as the past five Cup winners had their top-three regular-season point producers dress every game during their postseason run.

While not the offensive dynamo he once was, the Philadelphia Flyers desperately need leader Chris Pronger back in the lineup if they plan to fight off the surging Buffalo Sabres.

The Flyers fizzled in the final month of the season without the services of their banged-up blueliner, compiling a 7-4-6 record with only one win coming against a playoff team.

Besides leading three different teams to the Stanley Cup Finals, and winning it all as a member of the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, Pronger has 120 points in 170 career playoff games and brings pivotal leadership qualities and a nasty, physical edge required for grueling postseason hockey.

Pronger, currently listed as day-to-day, could be back in time for Game 1 and would provide a major charge to the defending Eastern Conference champions.

The Detroit Red Wings are another powerhouse who were bit by the injury bug all season, and that has carried over into the first round, as they opened their series against the Phoenix Coyotes without leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg. He has been out since April 7 with a knee injury.

Like Pronger, Zetterberg is listed as day-to-day, but there doesn't appear to be an immediate timetable for his return.

This is terrible news for the Wings, as Zetterberg is one of the game's most deadly and consistent two-way threats.

Since the 2004-05 lockout, Zetterberg has 86 points in 81 playoff games, a Stanley Cup ring and a Conn Smythe Trophy with his name on it.

Sure, the wings are deep and experienced, as demonstrated by their dominating 4-2 performance in Game 1, but they will need Zetterberg healthy and contributing if they plan on sticking around for the next six weeks.

Outside of those two, the New York Rangers will be in tough without heart-and- soul forward Ryan Callahan and the Los Angeles Kings took a major hit when Anze Kopitars went down in late March.

And then there's Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Not much needs to be said of their importance to the fate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, despite the incredible and improbable success the team has enjoyed in their absence.

While every team is faced with adversity and injuries at some point or another, the pain becomes unbearable when the games matter most.


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