Spartans Face Early Battlesby Sean Gallagher | December 22, 2013, 7:06 PM ET
"Yeah, no, it's not what you'd hope for," deadpanned Spartans GM Sean Gallagher, "One week into the season and we have over $11 million of salary on the IR. Not ideal."
Gallagher was referring, of course, to the early season injuries to top-line forwards Chris Kunitz and Ryan Kesler. Kunitz, the team's current franchise player, played only part of one game before going down with a knee injury, while Kesler, a high-dollar summer addition via trade, looks to be out for at least a month with a herniated disc in his back. The injuries have thrust other players into roles they were not expected to fill.
"Well, it's not exactly a drop-off to have Mike Richards on the first line," said Gallagher, "But not even (Sergei) Andronov expected to be on the first line of the pro club. Likewise, having Umberger switch over to center on the second line isn't too bad for us, but we didn't really want Chris Porter seeing second line minutes."
Andronov started the season in the minors, while Porter is a career fourth liner.
While the top two lines have done enough to see the Spartans start off the year 3-1-0, much of the credit belongs elsewhere, as checking specialist Paul Gaustad has taken over the team scoring lead with four goals and two assists, while Adam "Release The" Cracknell and Marty "Let's Be" Reasoner have both chipped in goals and points to help out.
That said, the real reasons for the Spartans non-collapse thus far has been the defense and goaltending, which have been excellent early on.
"Hey, you all heard it in the Power Rankings discussion - our defense and goaltending are our strengths. Our forward lines are shallow and we know that. Now, with these injuries, we are really counting on the D and our tandem in net to keep us afloat in the conference."
While the Spartans management team denies that they will make any panic moves via trade, they again reiterated their stock response regarding the trade front, saying that, "While we aren't actively looking to make any moves, we are always open to improving this team. No joke, our GM's business cards even say 'Even Gretzky Got Traded' right on them."