by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Paul Martin, in the midst of perhaps his most memorable NHL season, is expected to miss six weeks with a broken bone, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced Saturday.
The Elk River native was slated for surgery on Easter Sunday.
Sporting News NHL reported that Martin “will miss six weeks with a broken bone in his ‘upper body,’ according to coach Dan Bylsma. A shot hit him in the hand/wrist on Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets.”
Martin, a 32-year-old defenseman in his 10th NHL season, has six goals and 15 assists in 33 games. In his first two seasons with Pittsburgh he had five goals in 150 games.
The Penguins have won 15 straight games, and have the NHL’s best record at 28-8.
This commentary on Martin’s injury was written by Adam Gretz of CBS Sports:
“Martin drew a ton of criticism last season for his play (though, I don’t think he was anywhere near as bad as his critics led you to believe) but has come back this year to be a rock on the Penguins’ blue line. He plays 25 minutes a night and has been a vital part of their power play and penalty kill. His game doesn’t generate a lot of attention because he doesn’t usually put up huge point totals (though, he is one of the leading scorers among defensemen this season) or dish out big hits, the type of things that get defensemen on highlight reels. But his greatest asset is the ability to get the puck in the defensive zone and make the smart plays to get the puck up ice and out of danger.”
The Penguins have allowed just nine goals in their last 11 games.
The Penguins keep rolling despite recent injuries, most significantly a gruesome mouth injury suffered by their superstar Sydney Crosby early in Saturday’s 2-0 win over the Islanders. Crosby was struck in the teeth by a puck and needs oral surgery, Bylsma told reporters after the game.
Martin’s defensive mate Kris Letang is out seven to 10 days with a broken toe. Josh Yohe of Trib Sports Live in Pittsburgh commented: “Making the situation more dire, Letang and Martin are regulars on the power play and easily play the most minutes of any Penguins defensemen.”
The Penguins bolstered their lineup, though,by trading for power forwards Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow before the NHL trade deadline. They also added physical defenseman Douglas Murray.
Martin, who won the state Mr. Hockey award with Elk River and played for two NCAA champion teams with the Gophers, has enjoyed little post-season success in his NHL career, despite his teams being consistently strong in regular seasons in seven years with the New Jersey Devils and the last two with Pittsburgh. The Penguins in the current lockout-shortened season are probably the best team for which he has played.
Martin signed a five-year, $25-million (USD) contract with the Penguins as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2010.
He was picked for the 2010 Olympic team while playing for New Jersey but had to skip the Olympics due to another injury, a broken bone in his left forearm.