Although many were still holding out hope that Sharks' goaltending prospect Al Stalock would miss only minimal time as the result of a leg injury he suffered last season, it seems those hopes have been dashed significantly.
According to a recent interview with the Duluth News Tribune, Stalock's doctors have informed him that he will not be able to begin on-ice training until February of 2012 at the earliest, a year after his surgery date.
Stalock had nerve repair surgery completed on his left leg on February 14th of 2011 to repair nerve damage suffered when the skate of an opponent cut a nerve near his knee during a game played February 4th.
If the one-year timetable is correct, then Stalock will not be able to return to practice until February 14th, leaving little time left in the season for him to receive any game time in the AHL. Even if he returns to action March 1st, only about 20 AHL games remain after that date. In that extremely optimistic scenario, Stalock's season will be shortened significantly.
Even worse, it's unknown how the injury will affect Stalock, a goalie who relies heavily on the speed and reflex game, long term. Although it's too early to predict anything, it will be something to watch going forward.
Stalock signed a one-year deal in June and will still be an RFA after his contract expires, so the goalie remains under the Sharks control for at least the next two seasons. Thomas Greiss, who signed a two-year deal this offseason, will likely take over the starter's role in Worcester this upcoming year. Greiss is familiar with the role, having played in Worcester and as a backup in San Jose.
The injury to Stalock does not completely kill the team's future in net. Aside from Stalock, the Sharks are actually quite wealthy with goaltending talent. Harri Sateri might make the jump to the AHL this year after playing in Europe, while Tyson Sexsmith, J.P. Anderson and others have all shown potential. Playing time for Sexsmith is a bit of a question mark headed into 2011-2012, but Anderson will return to the OHL where he posted a .911 save percentage last year.