Photo by Candace Riley, © 2011, All Rights Reserved.
The end of November typically finds Teemu Hartikainen shifting from simmer to rolling boil. For a number of reasons, Hartikainen has had to adjust to new circumstances to start each of the previous three seasons. After a couple of months, he settles in and plays the powerful, oft-shooting game his fans have become accustomed to.
It was on November 25, 2009 that Hartikainen completed his military service and proceeded to go on a tear that ended in the SM-Liiga playoffs. December 1st, 2010 saw Hartikainen shift into high gear and total 36 points in his next 55 games after adjusting to a new country, new language and new ice surface. As I observed over the summer, when December rolls around:
...Hartikainen takes off. His shots increase by 35%, his points by 60%, his goals by 62%...
So it was heartening to see Hartikainen's performance in Grand Rapids on Friday night. Hartikainen was dominant. He was engaged physically, handling the puck, using his body on the boards and in front and was a factor in the defensive zone. He ended the night with a goal, an assist and 7 shots on goal. That goal and assist gave him 8 goals and 5 assists through 17 games, easily the best start to any season in his career. His NHLE of of 26 was 9 points over his October-November career average and if his December bump was coming, Hartikainen was in line for a 60 point season.
It looked as if though he was set to end his best start ever on a high note. Then, on Saturday against Rockford, the injury bug finally bit Hartikainen.
In the second period, Hartikainen collided with an unnamed Ice Hog and went down. His shoulder numb, Hartikainen left the ice. He was diagnosed with an AC sprain and missed the game against Grand Rapids the following day. He saw the team doctor who diagnosed him with a mild separation of the AC joint that will not require surgery.
Hartikainen will be out for 3-6 weeks as he heals and rehabs the shoulder. If he's out for six weeks, Hartikainen will miss 17 games and return on January 13th for a three-game homestand against Rockford and Abbotsford. The injury puts extra strain on the Barons, already without the services of Linus Omark who is out for at least another month with a broken ankle.
The separated shoulder is the first injury of Hartikainen's career. For Hartikainen, it's not a big deal. Though he admitted his game against Grand Rapids was his best of the season, he's not letting the injury get him down. He plans on pushing through rehab and returning in January. Hartikainen, always an upbeat with an optimistic outlook, looks at the bright side of the injury, "I get to jump back into the lineup just when I usually start to put up good numbers."