The Norwegian Men’s National hockey team’s time in the 2014 Sochi Olympics came to an end today, as they lost to Russia 4-0. Forward Mats Zuccarello’s ended a little earlier, and it’s becoming a serious concern for the New York Rangers.
Here’s what we know about Zuccarello’s injury; reportedly, he left the Olympics with his left hand wrapped. That’s it, and due to the fact that the severity of the ailment is not known, you have to think the Rangers are more than nervous.
Teams resume NHL practice this Thursday, and players who either didn’t receive an invite to Sochi or have been eliminated will return to their clubs. Only then will New York be able to evaluate Zuccarello’s hand. Until then, it’s sweaty palms time for the Rangers. The last thing they need is to lose their current leader in points for a significant amount of time.
New York is currently in playoff contention, but their grip on a spot could hardly be considered solid. One the biggest issues facing new coach Alain Vigneault this year is a lack of consistent offense. There have been more than a few nights this season where the goal appeared to be needle thin for the Rangers. That said, I think we can all see why losing one of their best offensive weapons would be a severe blow.
The Rangers have enjoyed a comeback year from much-maligned Brad Richards, while Rick Nash avoided a major concussion scare to return and lead the team in goals. Still, though, if Zuccarello is out for a lengthy period of time, the load on Richards and Nash will only increase.
For all we know, the injury may not be major. It should be noted, though, that the honor of representing one’s country at the Olympics isn’t bestowed on many players. Zuccarello may not make the cut for Norway in four years, so if it was serious enough to keep him from playing against Russia, it could be pretty bad.
New York, like the rest of us, won’t know much more until Thursday at the earliest. The status of his health could make or break their playoff hopes. Rangers fans everywhere are likely holding their breath until they hear more.