Off The Draw: NHL's mumps threat grows; key weekend games
Who's going to be the next victim of the NHL's apparent outbreak of mumps? The player who gets a glove in the face? The linesman who retrieves a broken stick? The off-ice official who discards a used towel in the penalty box?
That how pernicious this oddly named but very distressing viral infection can be, and why there's so much concern about its potential impact around the league. According to webmd, mumps is spread by mucus or droplets from the nose or throat of an infected person, usually when that person coughs or sneezes. But it also can be passed when water bottles are shared, hands are shaken, or a surface such as a towel or bench door is touched by an infected person and then by someone else who rubs their eyes, nose or mouth.
That symptoms of the virus are similar to those of the flu with the addition of a swollen jaw or cheeks and possibly severe pain in the stomach or testicles, but they can persist much longer—as much as 7-to-10 days.
That's bad enough. But what really concerns NHL teams is that it typically takes two to three weeks for an infected person to begin showing symptoms after exposure to the virus.
That means this thing has the potential to get a whole lot worse.
It's thought that southern California may be Ground Zero for the outbreak. On Wednesday, the Anaheim Ducks confirmed that Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin had been diagnosed with the virus. A day later, the Minnesota Wild said that Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella were sidelined with symptoms similar to those experienced earlier this season by teammates Keith Ballard and Christian Folin, both of whom are now thought to have had mumps.
The Wild played in Anaheim and Los Angeles on Oct. 17 and 19, just before Ballard and Folin fell ill. That's led to speculation that they contracted the virus there.
“This came from somewhere else, but there’s obviously a possibility that it’s inside our locker room now,” Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo told the team's website. “You start to wonder [if] this is sitting inside anybody else waiting to come out, too."
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on Thursday that the St. Louis Blues have had players test positive for the disease and that at least one referee and one linesman have experienced similar symptoms.
“Swollen jaw, pressure in my head, body aches, fever—those things weren't fun,” said Perry, who was hospitalized for three days as he battled the virus.
Teams around the league, especially those that have run the California Gauntlet, must now be vigilant for any signs of the virus in their rooms. But given how long it takes to incubate, and how it's most likely to be spread one or two days before symptoms manifest or immediately thereafter, it's easy to imagine that the worst is yet to come.
UPDATE: According to Eric Stephens of the OC Register, several members of the Ducks, including front office staff and coach Bruce Boudreau, are receiving the first of their MMR vaccinations today to help protect against the spread of the virus.
Games to watch this weekend
The offseason swap that sent Scott Hartnell to Columbus in exchange for R. J. Umberger seemed lopsided when it happened. Now? It looks even worse. Sure, the cap-strapped Flyers moved a few bucks further from the ceiling and cut a few years off a contract commitment down the road. Short term, though, this has been a huge win for the Jackets. Hartnell has been one of the team's best forwards in the early going, the perfect fit for their up-tempo, hard-nosed game. Umberger, meanwhile, is a possession black hole whose diminished foot speed limits him to bottom-six minutes. Both players should come into this one emotional and looking to prove something. Expect teammates on both sides to ride the wave, setting up a very entertaining contest.
Rest of the schedule: Devils at Capitals (7 p.m. EST; MSG+, CSN-DC); Penguins at Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. EST; TVA, ROOT, TSN4); Blackhawks at Red Wings (7:30 p.m. EST; CSN-CH, FS-D); Islanders at Panthers (7:30 p.m. EST; MSG+2, FS-F); Coyotes at Canucks (10 p.m. EST; FS-A PLUS, SNP)
Ducks at Kings (4 p.m. EST; PRIME, FS-W)
Three days after staging one of the most entertaining games of the season, these SoCal rivals meet again in what should be another thriller. The Kings come in ice cold, having dropped seven of their past nine, but their last two losses are the most troubling. They spent Thursday night's 2-0 defeat chasing the play against a Dallas team that had just snapped its own seven-game skid, one night after blowing three two-goal leads against these same Ducks. Going by Darryl Sutter's expression, the Kings should come into this one with a burr under their saddles. Anaheim could have Corey Perry (mumps) back in the lineup, but the Kings will have to focus on stopping Ryan Kesler. Last summer's prize acquisition was the difference in Wednesday's contest with two goals in the third, a game-high eight hits, a dominant night in the circle and the shootout winner. GM Bob Murray brought him in to level the playing field against the center-rich Kings. Looks like Kesler is up to the task.
Rest of the schedule: Hurricanes at Bruins (1 p.m. EST; SPSO, NESN); Wild at Stars (2 p.m. EST; FS-N; FS-WI, FS-SW); Maple Leafs at Sabres (7 p.m. EST; CBC, MSG-B); Flyers at Canadiens (7 p.m. EST; NHLN-US, TVA, SN, CSN-PH); Islanders at Lightning (7 p.m. EST; MSG+2, SUN); Avalanche at Devils (7 p.m. EST; ALT, MSG+); Rangers at Penguins (7 p.m. EST; FX-CA, MSG, ROOT); Sharks at Blue Jackets (7 p.m. EST; CSN-CA, FS-O); Jets at Predators (7 p.m. EST; CITY, FS-TN); Capitals at Blues (8 p.m. EST; CSN-DC+, FS-MW); Senators at Flames (10 p.m. EST; CBC, TVA2)
This isn't so much about two teams as it is one man against a city. Chicago fans loathe Antoine Roussel, and there's nothing he loves more than riling them up. The Stars' agitator, fresh off a five-grand fine for delivering a late hit on San Jose's Justin Braun, has played some of his best hockey at the United Center. In a 2-1 win last December he scored both Dallas goals, including one on a penalty shot, staged a furious brawl with Andrew Shaw, and took liberties with captain Jonathan Toews, but it was the way that Roussel taunted the crowd that ensured he'd become a marked man. "He's an easy guy to hate, but you have to respect him, too," said Shaw last season. "You can't let him dictate the way the game will be played because he can do that. He just gets under your skin."
Rest of the schedule: Sharks at Hurricanes (5 p.m. EST; CSN-CA, SPSO); Jets at Wild (5 p.m. EST; TSN3, FS-N); Canadiens at Red Wings (7 p.m. EST; CITY, RDS, FS-D); Panthers at Ducks (8 p.m. EST; FS-F, PRIME); Coyotes at Oilers (9 p.m. EST; FS-A, SNW)
What you may have missed
• Jarret Stoll had the puck on his stick and an empty net in which to bury it. And then Kari Lehtonen posterized him.
• Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal, and assist and then dropped the mitts last night, ensuring countless gallons of virtual ink will be spilled today by horrified anti-fighting advocates. Somewhere, Don Cherry is smiling.
• Speaking of the ol' Gordie Howe hat trick, Dale Weise played pretty well for a dead man last night.
• Filip Forsberg super-tied a Nashville franchise record in a 4-3 loss to the Blues.
The numbers game
• Nashville's Filip Forsberg, who enters the weekend leading all rookies in scoring (20 points), is the first rookie to put together a six-game goal streak since Feb. 5-15, 2011, when Michael Grabner of the Islanders scored in six straight games while going 10-3-13. Only two other active players had streaks of at least six games as rookies: Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals in 2005-06 (twice: 7 and 6 games) and Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins in 2006-07 (6).
• The Blues' STL Line of Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera enters the weekend with a combined output of 16-22-38 over the team’s past 10 games.
• Despite losing to the Avalanche in a shootout on Thursday night, the Rangers have grabbed points in eight of their past nine games at Madison Square Garden (5-1-3).
• Our own Michael Farber turned in this moving feature for TSN on Ottawa GM Bryan Murray, who is fighting stage 4 colon cancer. Well worth your time.
• A Nobel Prize winner could change the way you watch hockey on TV and determine how much you pay for the privilege.
• Pittsburgh defender Olli Maatta returned to practice Thursday just nine days after having a cancerous tumor removed from his throat. Amazingly, he could be back in action in a matter of days.
• If anyone can understand the hell that injured Columbus forward Nathan Horton is going through, it's former teammate Marc Savard.