One day into training camp. One day. And already, Filip Kuba is already out of the Ottawa Senators' lineup with a leg injury--feared to be a broken ankle, according to the Ottawa Sun, which could keep Kuba out of the lineup for up to two months (UPDATE: The Citizen reports it's a broken leg, and will keep Kuba out for at least five weeks.)
Looking at the guy's injury list since being acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning might just make you come down with an illness yourself: Groin (eight games), "illness" (three games), "lower body" (eight games), "upper body" (four games), "lower body" again (six games), re-injured "lower body" again (11 regular-season games, six more in the playoffs), and now this. For who knows how long.
But as frustrated as it must be for those of us watching the Senators from the sidelines, one can only imagine how frustrated Kuba himself must be. Despite missing 46 games over the course of the last two seasons, he's still put up six goals and 62 assists over that time, good for one point every other game--pretty good numbers, no matter how you feel about the guy.
But he's out now. So which defenceman will step up?
The General seems like the first and most obvious player to fill the roster spot left behind Kuba's injury. He's on a one-way contract, he's got NHL experience, and he's played a lot of time with head coach Cory Clouston. But Brian Lee is characteristically terrible in training camp: Each of the last three seasons, Lee came in with a chance to make an positive impression, but in each of those seasons he failed to do so. This will most certainly be one of his final chances with Ottawa, so Lee is going to need to show significant experience from last season, and an ability to keep up with NHL forwards. Look for him to play in quite a few exhibition games.
The next assumed successor, Cowen will probably get ample opportunity to show whether or not he's ready for the NHL--and he'll probably be given the benefit of the doubt, because for him it's either NHL or back to Spokane in major junior. So if Cowen keeps up in training camp, he's likely to get the nine-game tryout a lot of junior players get when they've got their first real shot at the pros--and if he gets left behind in training camp, he's out of luck. Another year in Spokane.
Gryba played his way on to the Senators' radar with a very solid rookie camp, including a couple snipe-job goals off expert offensive-zone pinches, plus some physical play featuring a fight with Mike Liambas. Earlier in the summer, Bryan Murray called Gryba this year's Matt Carkner, which means he might be able to step in and admirably fill the shoes of a 5-6 defenceman. He's certainly got the size to do it, and showed he might be a little more offensively capable than Carkner (although Carkner's scoring prowess in triple overtime is second to none).
Although he flew under the radar to a degree in the rookie camp, Wiercioch is still a defender with high expectations in the Senators farm system. Still huge, although a little slender, scouting reports have Wiercioch as more offensively inclined, which may work to his disadvantage--with Sergei Gonchar, Erik Karlsson, and Chris Campoli already in Ottawa, a defensive defender might be next in line for a spot. But if Wiercioch can show he's more ready for NHL minutes than the three others, he'll be the one given the lineup spot.