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Shocker: Martin Havlat to miss opening night

Oct 5, 2011, 8:42 PM EDT

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Some players just have reputations of being injury prone. If you were to ask hockey fans about a player who has been known to miss a few games, it wouldn’t take long before you found someone who would mention Martin Havlat’s name. Unfortunately, this news isn’t going to help.

According to Pierre LeBrun, Havlat will miss the Sharks opening game against the Phoenix Coyotes. The newly acquired winger’s shoulder will prevent him from making his season debut in front of the raucous, opening night crowd at the Tank. Havlat may only end up missing a single game due to the Sharks early schedule though. After starting the season at home on Saturday, they have to wait until Friday, October 14th before their second game of the season in Anaheim. The injury doesn’t appear to be serious and the team is hoping to have him back without missing significant time.

Earlier this afternoon, San Jose Mercury News beat reporter David Pollak spoke to Sharks’ head coach Todd McLellan. His comment was simple and straight to the point: “If his doctor says he needs a little more time, we can live with that.” According to LeBrun, he’ll need a little more time.

Havlat has the reputation of being one of the most injured players in recent memory—but it’s a reputation that he’s been working to shed over the last three seasons. Following the lockout, Havlat was a groin/hamstring injury just waiting to happen. He averaged only 36 games per season between 2005-2008. Within the stretch, he only played 18 games in the first year after the lockout; the season happened to be his last with the Ottawa Senators as well. His injuries overshadowed that he was almost a point-per-game player over the same stretch.

But that was then. Over the last three seasons, he’s been on the ice for significantly more action than the previous three years. During his last season in Chicago and two campaigns in Minnesota, Havlat averaged 77 games per season. Sure, missing 5 games per season isn’t going to remind anyone of Cal Ripken or Brett Favre—but he’s hardly the alone in the trainer’s room.

Besides, if he only misses opening night, he can still tie his career high with 81 games played this season. The last time he played 81 games, he racked up 29 goals and 77 points en route to a trip to the Western Conference final with the Blackhawks. After two consecutive trips to the conference finals, the Sharks are hoping that Havlat can help the team get over the hump and make their first Stanley Cup final in franchise history.

From the team’s point of view, they plan on letting Havlat’s shoulder heal at its own pace. It’s a long season with extremely high expectations. From that perspective, there’s no reason to rush Havlat back to the ice before he’s fully healthy. Hopefully for fans in San Jose, he was just bitten by the injury bug a little earlier this season.

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