By Mike Harrington
It's quite a scramble for teams to get their players back in time for camp to open this weekend. I read something a few days ago from CBC's Elliotte Friedman quoting an unnamed club executive as saying, "One of the big problems is we don't know where half our players are."
That may be a stretch but there are health issues of players that need to be addressed and teams are already showing worry about their rosters. To wit:
---In Philadelphia, old friend Daniel Briere needs to see a hand specialist because of a wrist and bone bruise he suffered a couple weeks ago in Germany. He could miss the start of the season.
---In Los Angeles, Anze Kopitar hurt suffered a sprained MCL in his knee Saturday night in his final game in Sweden and could miss up to three weeks.
---Then there's the dilemma of players in the KHL not wanting to return to North America even though the NHL's deal with the Russian league calls for exactly that when the lockout ended.
Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky is going to do just that and maybe you can't blame him, if you had to play in the Nassau Coliseum too.
But here's the big shocker -- Devils superstar Ilya Kovalchuk might be pondering the same move. I can make the case Kovalchuk's absurd contract (17 years, $102 million) was one of the key reasons for the lockout in the first place and now he's going to shirk it and stay over there? Good riddance.
Devils beat writer Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record tweeted this morning that Kovalchuk is on the ice in an evening game in Russia, in clear defiance of the NHLPA. Jordan Leopold told us yesterday that all players have been instructed to stop playing overseas.
Kovalchuk has been widely quoted this morning as saying "I will need to read the new agreement" before making a decision. Hmmm.
I already think the defending Eastern Conference champions are doomed -- perhaps to miss the playoffs entirely -- in the wake of the loss of Zach Parise to Minnesota. Take Kovalchuk away and they'd have almost no chance, which would be good for teams like the Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs that are looking to get back in the mix.