After missing his first game of the season due to injury five days earlier, top 2012 draft prospect Nail Yakupov returned to the lineup for the Sarnia Sting on Thursday in a 4-3 loss to the Barrie Colts.
Yakupov, who took a check to the head in the third period of last Friday's victory over the Saginaw Spirit, appeared to be his normal productive self when he connected for 2 goals and 3 points. But his club suffered their second loss in the last five games.
Despite the loss, Sarnia assistant coach Trevor Letowski
told The Sarnia Observer after the game that "Yakky was one of our best guys tonight."
Yakupov woke up Saturday morning experiencing a headache and a sore back
and was held out of the lineup that evening. At the time, Sarnia coach and general manager Jacques Beaulieu said he was taking a "wait and see" approach with regard to Yakupov's soreness.
Yakupov, who suffered his injury after taking a hit from Saginaw's Garret Ross early in the third period, is second in Ontario Hockey League in scoring with 46 points, including 18 goals in 23 games.
According to Sarnia's assistant general manager, Mark Glavin, Yakupov was on the ice Friday morning at practice. Glavin said he was sore but wasn't suffering from any major setbacks. Glavin also informed NHL.com that Yakupov "never had a concussion and was just pretty banged up and too sore to play" last Saturday.
Ross received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the infraction. The Sting will next play host to the Niagara IceDogs on Saturday.
Earlier this season, Yakupov's linemate and fellow Russian countryman, Alex Galchenyuk, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and underwent surgery. He is still at least four months away from returning to the lineup. Galchenyuk suffered his injury on Sept. 16 in a preseason game against the Windsor Spitfires.
The injuries to Yakupov and Galchenyuk certainly aren't isolated incidents this season in the Canadian Hockey League. There are several other top blue chip players watching from the stands. In the Western Hockey League, Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray (high ankle sprain), Edmonton Oil Kings defenseman Griffin Reinhart (shoulder) and Moose Jaw Warriors defenseman Morgan Rielly (season-ending knee surgery) have been shelved, although Murray resumed skated on Tuesday.
In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Halifax Mooseheads right wing Martin Frk hasn't played a game this season due to a concussion.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale