When Andreas Lilja missed the New Years Eve game against the Colorado Avalanche, he missed his 82nd straight game.
Sure, some of them were playoff games, and they were spread out over two seasons, but the de-facto fifth defenseman has missed the equivalent of a full season of hockey, thanks to a punch to the chin from Nashville’s Shea Weber:
The fight occurred during the second period of a Red Wings / Predators game last February. Lilja didn’t look injured immediately, skating by himself to the penalty box, and not down the hallway. But clearly, something was wrong. He hasn’t gone more than three days in a row without headaches, and – despite a trip to a chiropractor in Vancouver earlier this season which briefly helped alleviate his symptoms – there’s no time-table for his return.
The uppercut from Weber clearly rung him. He dropped to his knees rather immediately, but found his way back up to his feet and hung in there. Looking back, it’s clear to everyone — especially Andreas Lilja — that maybe that fight was ill-advised. Even though he’s a physical defenseman, fighting isn’t his forte.
Detroit could certainly use Lilja’s presence on the blue line this season. After spending a season or two as the Wings whipping boy, he had definitely come into his own and was a valuable piece. His injury hurts. Particularly this season, a season in which everyone’s been injured.
His contract expires in July, and it remains to be seen if his career will — or can — continue. It was doubtful that the Red Wings would have considered re-signing after this season anyway, due to Kindl’s waiver eligibility next season, and the rest of the defense still signed. But I hope that his career didn’t come to an end with a fist to the chin.