Stars' absence won't hurt teams much

Alex Ovechkin joins the list of stars succumbing to injury early in the season. Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Another day, another NHL superstar joins the ranks of the walking wounded. After leaving Sunday's 5-4 overtime loss to Columbus in the second period, Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin is now listed as week-to-week with an undisclosed upper-body injury. The NHL's points leader joins an ever-lengthening list of key players out of commission, particularly among teams seen as strong contenders for the Stanley Cup.

The Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Capitals all came into the season with aspirations of winning the league's most coveted trophy, but early on those hopes seem to have taken some heavy hits because of injuries. With Ovie's absence from the ice, we thought it would be a good time to see exactly how badly each team has been bitten by the injury bug. Can these clubs overcome the losses of key players to make the 2010 postseason? We consulted the impact on each team's VUKOTA projections to find out.

The result? Fans of squads with stars among the walking wounded can rest easy. Although the results vary in each instance, even extended absences by top players aren't enough to bring these teams back to the pack.
Several factors keep these injuries from being true catastrophes, but the most important is that even stars don't contribute enough to truly matter on a game-by-game basis.