Yesterday, the New Jersey Devils did say that Cory Schneider would not play in tonight's game against Pittsburgh (recap of an abysmal game to come later) and that there would be an update on Schneider's condition on Sunday. That did not come in the afternoon. It came after the game. From Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice:
Devils coach John Hynes announced after today's 6-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins that goaltender Cory Schneider has a Grade 1 sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee and will be reevaluated in two weeks.
MCL sprains usually do not require surgery and heal with rest and rehab, so, in that way, Schneider was fortunate to escape without a more serious injury. Still, the timing is terrible for the Devils, who, after today's lopsided loss to the Penguins, are six points out of a playoff spot with only 15 games remaining.
Gulitti hits on the main points of the update. We now know the extent of Schneider's injury. We know that it is far from the worst case scenario. Nothing was torn. Nothing was damaged beyond a sprain. We know it doesn't require any kind of surgery. Therefore, I would expect that once Schneider is fully recovered, this will not turn out to be a cause for concern.
But Gulitti hits on the most telling point: the timing of it. If this happened earlier in the season, Schneider would get the rest he needed and be back with plenty of time to play. Assuming this two week re-evaluation is a literal 14-day period, Schneider will certainly miss the team's next five games. It's very likely a sixth since two Sundays from today, the Devils will finish up a home-and-home with Columbus. I doubt he'll be available for that game as there will be a re-evaluation of his condition in two weeks. It's not guaranteed he'll be actually ready to play in two weeks. It's a real possibility he misses more than six of the team's last fifteen games.
This raises a logical question: Should the Devils shut him down? In this quick, post-game reaction post, my initial thought is yes. The Devils have just let Mike Cammalleri and Patrik Elias heal up at their own pace without any rush to bring either back given the nature of their injuries. While a MCL sprain may not be as severe as other injuries that could have happened, I doubt they will rush Schneider back. The Devils aren't going to reasonably battle for the playoffs. They certainly aren't after the egg they laid against Pittsburgh, which follows a lot of egg laying in the team's previous ten games. I can understand a desire that Schneider would want to get out there when he can, do what he loves to do in net, and help his team at all costs since he is a professional hockey player and that's what they do. But if he's going to miss close to half of the team's remaining games of the season at a minimum, then I see little point bringing him back to end a lost season. From a pure fan perspective of wanting a competitive product on the ice, I'd like to see Schneider in net when he can. He's made the team that much better in this and previous season. Yet, I don't think he's going to salvage much given he'll be out for at least two and possibly more weeks in a season that has five weeks remaining. Of course, as a fan and a blogger, I'm always willing to change my mind, especially if convinced.
As for the Devils, well, this is certainly bad news no matter how it's looked at. After all, he's arguably the best player on the Devils for this season and quite possibly last season as well. Without #35, this team goes from having a faint hope for the playoffs to next to no hope. It basically confirms that the right path should be to slip down the rankings, which may not require many other changes given Sunday's game. While Schneider being out hurt helps that cause, it's a really, really, really hard to watch cause. While I've given my opinion and my reaction, we shall see if he makes a return at all. Will he? Should he? Let me know what you think in the comments. Thank you for reading. A recap will come later tonight.