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Melrose: Injury to Ducks' Perry alters West race

by Barry Melrose / NHL.com

There are a few individual players who have had a major impact in the NHL recently, either by being in the lineup or by being out of it. Today we're going to take a look at two guys who will have a big influence on the final standings, and another guy who is so good, you wonder if he might make a difference even if his team doesn't.

WOUNDED DUCK

Corey Perry missed the Anaheim Ducks game against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday with a knee injury and there's some uncertainty as to how long he could be out. Because the differences and the advantages each of the top teams have are so small, I think losing a 50-goal scorer like Perry will have a significant impact on the Ducks. It doesn't matter how good you are -- and the Ducks are certainly good -- Perry is a lot of offense to replace. Not having him out there also affects guys like Ryan Getzlaf and hurts Anaheim's power play.

At the same time, competitors in the Western Conference like the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Nashville Predators, all of them get an opening they can take advantage of. It's a significant loss, and if Perry misses really significant time it will put a lot of pressure on the rest of the lineup, in particular guys like Matt Beleskey and Ryan Kesler to fill the void.

It's starting to look like it could be one of those years for Perry where a little thing here and a little thing there all conspire to keep him out of the lineup more than you'd want. The Ducks are a Stanley Cup Playoff team without Perry, but they're going to be fighting for home ice and first overall, and having him out will significantly impact Anaheim's chances. If they lose Perry for, say, a third of the season, and still end up at the top of the standings, that will be a very impressive statement.

MARTY'S RETURN

One of the biggest stories this week was Martin Brodeur's return with the St. Louis Blues, just the second team he's played for in more than two decades in the NHL. Brodeur is 42 and his numbers definitely declined in recent years, so there was some uncertainty over what to expect, but from a pure hockey point of view I thought Brodeur looked very good, both in his first game against Nashville and his relief appearance against the New York Islanders. He didn't look that rusty and he moved pretty well. The thing I thought was most noticeable was that his play was very conservative in regard to playing the puck. Roaming around and being a third defenseman was one of Brodeur's trademarks with the New Jersey Devils, but so far in St. Louis he's been content to let his defensemen play the puck most of the time.

Brodeur's play so far brings up two interesting questions. The first is how is this going to affect Blues goalie Jake Allen? He's supposed to be the backup now and the goalie of the future, but Brodeur has played so well that he looks like he'll be the No. 1 until Brian Elliott returns and may stay as the backup when that happens. You have to wonder what impact this will have on Allen and the Blues going forward.

The other thing to ask is, "How will Brodeur hold up when the initial excitement dies down?" Eventually Brodeur will get into the grind as the season wears on and you have to wonder how well-conditioned he'll be and how his body will hold up. He hasn't played in seven months, he isn't used to travel in the West and he's 42. Will he get tired when he's playing his third game in four nights? Will he wear down? The answer may play a big role in determining who wins the Central Division.

THE TY THAT BINDS

By and large, I feel like the hockey media just doesn't talk enough about Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin. With 35 points in 27 games he leads the League in both points and goals (21) and shows no sign of slowing down. Seguin scored two more goals on Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens, including the game-winner and added an assist. Now we knew he'd be up there all season long because he has always been a strong offensive talent and now the Stars have Jason Spezza to play with him if they set the lines that way, but I'm still not sure Seguin gets his due.

Seguin is immensely talented, he scores highlight-reel goals, he's a good-looking kid who's well-spoken, and the Stars may be a disappointment so far this year, but there just aren't a lot of guys more fun to watch in the NHL right now.

You really have to wonder what Seguin would be like, or what the Boston Bruins would look like, if he had never been traded by the B's. I'm not sure he could score 50 goals in Claude Julien's defensive system, but Seguin would lead the team in scoring every year. Just looking at the hockey end of the deal, would Boston make it again? I don't think so. The Bruins gave up a lot of goals for a team that tends to have trouble scoring. Seguin could hit 50 this year, and he'll be spending all season taking a run at the Maurice Richard Trophy with guys like Steven Stamkos and Vladimir Tarasenko. I just hope we all take a minute to watch and see how amazing he is.

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