It turns out Steven Stamkos might not be the biggest injury concern for Canada’s Olympic hockey prospects.
The reigning Olympic champions could be down their starting goalie from 2010. Canada is scheduled to announce its roster on Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET, the final day for nations to submit Olympic hockey rosters.
An injured player on the initial Olympic roster can be replaced up to Feb. 12. This is key for Canada, as outlined in the three burning questions going into the team announcement below.
1. How serious is Roberto Luongo’s injury?
The starting goalie on the nation’s gold-medal run in 2010 suffered an undisclosed injury in a collision in a game Saturday and was held out of Sunday’s game. This came after Luongo missed three straight games with a groin injury.
He was listed as day to day, but it might be worse than that. He was scheduled to be re-evaluated Monday.
Luongo or Carey Price is expected to be Canada’s starter in Sochi. As skilled as Canada’s skaters are, goalie is a position where it is merely comparable to several other nations.
Luongo was strong for Canada after taking over for Martin Brodeur in Vancouver, posting a 1.76 goals-against average and .927 save percentage. His recent NHL seasons have been less stellar, but his 2013-14 campaign has been his best in three years.
Price, of the Montreal Canadiens, has been better statistically than Luongo this season but has zero minutes of Olympic experience.
Barring a significant injury announcement Monday, expect Luongo to be named to the team with Price. The likely No. 3 is the Phoenix Coyotes’ Mike Smith.
If Luongo has to be replaced, Canada has options in 2010 Olympian Marc-Andre Fleury and Josh Harding, who has been the best Canadian goalie in the NHL this season.
2. What are Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis’ chances?
Before Luongo’s injury, the focus was on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s two biggest stars — forwards Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.
There was significant doubt in Stamkos’ Olympic availability when he suffered a broken tibia Nov. 11.
The NHL’s leading scorer in 2010 and 2012 embarked on aggressive rehab with his first Winter Games in mind and skated in full equipment last week. He appears set to be named to the team. Again, that Feb. 12 injury replacement deadline helps.
St. Louis, the Lightning captain at age 38, is more of a question to hear his name Tuesday. He made the team in 2006 and missed it in 2010 but should be optimistic given Canada’s GM that left him off four years ago, Steve Yzerman, is now the GM of the Lightning.
St. Louis’ 38 points this season are tied for 13th among Canadian players and behind younger fringe Olympic hopefuls Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin.
“I think Marty deserves a spot on that team regardless of any other player, whether they’re injured or not,” Stamkos said last week. “Marty, especially the last 10 games, has really carried us. He’s a leader, he’s the captain for a reason, and he probably should have been on the last [Olympic] team — he’s using that as motivation, and I’ll be very surprised if he’s not on the team.”
3. Who else is on the roster bubble?
Aside from the Lightning pair, several star forwards seem locked in — Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf, John Tavares, Corey Perry, Matt Duchene, Logan Couture and Patrice Bergeron.
Claude Giroux and Patrick Sharp also appear likely, but it gets murky after that.
Two-time Olympian Joe Thornton leads the NHL in assists, but is there any more room at center with Crosby, Toews and Getzlaf and Tavares?
Jamie Benn, Chris Kunitz, Rick Nash and Hall and Seguin have a shot, too.
Five of eight defensemen look locked in — Jay Bouwmeester, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Weber. P.K. Subban and Brent Seabrook also make pretty strong cases.
There are also San Jose Sharks Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, making nine guys for eight spots.
Another tough call for Yzerman and Co., who have the enviable embarrassment of riches and the unenviable task of cutting players any other country would love to have in Sochi.