The NHL trade deadline is Monday, and team executives are huddled together figuring out what they need to make the playoffs or compete for the Stanley Cup.
And, in turn, trying to factor in the unknown.
Like if injured players will be available for a playoff push. Like if they return, will they be effective or will there not be enough time to shake the rust?
Here are a number of the teams facing "X-factors" in their trade deadline plans.
What the Bruins are pretty sure about: Winger Rich Peverley will be back for the playoffs after an MCL injury. What the Bruins, and the rest of the Eastern Conference, are unsure of: Whether Nathan Horton will be back for the playoffs, because it's not looking good with his concussion rehab.
It's the X-factor that will affect everything they do or don't do in the next several days. He was arguable their most important forward in last season's run before he was Rome'd. What if he's out for the postseason?
The Flames could get a hell of a lot better over the next two weeks. Or, barring that, healthier.
The hope is that Curtis Glencross, who suffered a knee injury on Jan. 17, is back by early March. He had 18 goals in 45 games when he went down.
Defenseman Derek Smith is skating again after an ankle injury in December. Ditto forward David Moss, whom the Calgary Herald said is expected back in "another few weeks." Right wing Lee Stempniak had a targeted return of mid-March after a high ankle sprain against the Red Wings on Jan. 31. Center Mikael Backlund is another player expected back in the next two weeks, which could move some pieces around the lineup.
The Panthers have been fading of late, but that's directly tied to injuries on their back end. Jason Garrison missed four games with a bum ankle. Ed Jovanovski missed 14 games but is nearly back after a broken hand last month. Dmitry Kulikov has been out since Jan. 23 but is expected back next month. He was in the midst of a career offensive year when he went down.
The Panthers should also get back Marco Sturm shortly, although who knows for what reason (3 points in 28 games). The wild card: Scottie Upshall, who had sports hernia surgery but whom coach Kevin Dineen said won't be in the lineup until he resembles the "real deal" again.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils have three significant pieces out of the lineup that could be back for the playoffs. Defenseman Adam Larsson has been out since Feb. 2 with a back injury and should be nearing a return. Defenseman Henrik Tallinder had a blood clot in his lower leg and last played on Jan. 17; he could be back by the middle of the month. Travis Zajac — arguably the best center on the team when he's on — hasn't resumed skating after his Achilles tendon injury but could still be considered in the team's playoff plans.
Oh, right: Sidney Crosby. Remember him? Pretty good player. Working his way back from a deep tissue bruise or whatever the hell it is. He's out indefinitely, but would infinitely make this a better team. Problem is that his uncertain status affects everything the Penguins shall do, according to the Canadian Press:
With only about a quarter of the regular season remaining, the Penguins have no idea when—or if—Crosby will play again this season. The superstar has been sidelined by concussion-related problems for all but eight games over the last 14 months and currently isn't cleared for contact even during practice. As the season winds down, it appears increasingly less likely he will return to play a meaningful number of regular-season games.
Given the steep price Shero might need to pay to acquire a more-than-pedestrian scorer in what is widely acknowledged to be a sellers'market, this is one season when he might have to take a step back rather than pursue yet another Crosby-line forward.
The Penguins sitting out the trade deadline, other than a possible minor tweak? It just might happen. Their biggest deal this month may be the $30-million contract they gave Neal last weekend.
'Tis tough to find Sid a winger when you're not sure there will be a Sid.
San Jose Sharks
This is a huge one: Martin Havlat, acquired specifically as a playoff upgrade over Dany Heatley, is due back in mid-March. Via Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area:
In theory, getting Havlat back could be viewed as a trade deadline acquisition. The Sharks aren't expected to make any major moves in the days leading up to the Feb. 27 cut-off date, but a healthy Havlat adds to their depth at the forward position — something that's been lacking in recent months, especially before the recent acquisition of Dominic Moore.
When that hypothesis was offered up to McLellan, he said: "Yes and no. You get a player that comes into your lineup that you haven't had for a long, long time and he's a very good player. He's ahead of a player that you would trade for because he understands our philosophies, he knows his teammates, he's familiar with his environment.
"The difference with Marty when he comes back is he hasn't been playing. He's going to have to find his game, and find it quickly."
Question is: Will he return to play with Rick Nash?
St. Louis Blues
The Blues hope they get two key offensive players back before the postseason. Alex Steen isn't expected back in the lineup soon, but Ken Hitchcock has spoken about his potential return this season. Jamie Langenbrunner will be out until late March with a broken bone in his left foot. Still, the notion they could be back in the lineup for the playoffs might have GM Doug Armstrong thinking defense first.
If center Nicklas Backstrom returns from his concussion, it could be a game-changer. But that's a big "if", considering he recently said he had no idea when he'd be back. But there isn't a player available at the deadline that could have his impact as an offensive player outside of Rick Nash. Question is: If he does return, would it be too late for the Caps?