Already all but eliminated from playoff contention, the Ottawa Senators will now play the remainder of the season without their leading goal scorer.
The Senators announced forward Bobby Ryan would undergo surgery in Montreal Thursday to repair a sports hernia. He will miss the final ten games of the regular season.
"Bobby has been dealing with the discomfort of this injury since it was sustained in November," said Senators general manager Bryan Murray. "Both Bobby and our medical staff were hopeful that we could hold off from having surgery until the completion of the season, but he aggravated the condition last Saturday in Dallas to the point that surgery is now the only option."
Ryan, who was acquired last July from the Anaheim Ducks, scored a team-leading 23 goals and had 48 points in 70 games.
Ryan scored 18 of his 23 goals by Dec. 31 and there was much speculation as to what was the cause of his recent lack of productivity. It now appears the injury played a big factor.
"Well he certainly started very, very well," said Murray on the Senators team website. "He shoots the puck awfully well, he scored some goals, his line obviously carried the team early on. He was a big part of that.
"I think after the hernia started to get aggravated a little bit he seemed to shoot the puck a bit less. Overall, very happy and satisfied with his overall play and we know he'll be a real contributor going forward."
Ryan's teammates were aware of the discomfort the winger was dealing with and offered their support.
"He battled through it and tried to work through it and it was something they were trying to give him help and he played well through it," said linemate Kyle Turris. "It will be nice when he's healthy and feeling better and able to get back at it.
"We knew it had been nagging him for a while and for him to battle through it and continue to try playing is something that we all respect him for."
Ryan's injury has created an opportunity for Mark Stone, who was recalled from Binghamton in the American Hockey League after Ryan aggravated the injury last weekend.
"There's still lots of hockey to be played and I want to make an impression and I want to stay up here," said Stone, who has a goal and an assist in his last two games. "I want to continue to play consistent hockey and stay up here for those ten games and hopefully make a good audition for next year."
While the Senators will have to host the Chicago Blackhawks without Ryan on Friday, they will likely have Craig Anderson back in goal against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Anderson missed the last seven games after suffering an upper body injury due to a collision with teammate Milan Michalek in a game against the Nashville Predators March 10.
Anderson's injury came at a terrible time for the Senators, who were still within reach of one of the final wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. The Senators lost their next five games without Anderson and saw any playoff hope disappear.
Anderson has served as Robin Lehner's backup for the past two games and says he's ready to face the Blackhawks if called upon.
Senators head coach Paul MacLean wouldn't name his starter for Friday's game.
"If called upon I'll be the guy that gets in there, but we'll wait to see what the coach says," said Anderson. "It's been a while. I want to make sure when I get back in there that physically I feel 100 per cent and am able to help the team achieve victory that night."
Defenceman Chris Phillips should also return to the lineup after missing the last game.
Tampa's Ryan Malone hit Phillips in a game Monday, and the two crashed hard into the boards. Phillips missed Tuesday's game against the Florida Panthers, but says he feels good and is ready to return.
While the Senators are no longer in playoff contention Phillips says there's numerous reasons for the players to be at their best.
"We still have games to play," said Phillips. "Everybody's fighting for a job, a contract, trying to prove to coaches and management that you should be here as well as the pride of wearing these jerseys. We're going to go out until the season's over, whenever that may be, and we want to go out and play as good as we can on a nightly basis."
Notes: C Mika Zibanejad says he should be ready to play Friday after missing the last game. Tomorrow's game marks the start of a five-game home stand for the Senators.