Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

It strains credulity to believe Erik Gudbranson alone is that much of a salve for the Kingston Frontenacs — especially when their No. 1 netminder is out.

Under the heading of it never rains, but it pours, Kingston has lost its talismanic 'tender, Washington Capitals-drafted Philipp Grubauer, to mononucleosis. That trumps getting the NHL's third overall pick back in the lineup.

"He had had flu like symptoms so we sent him for blood work,” said Larry Mavety, director of hockey operations and general manager. “It was determined that Philipp has mono, but the length of time he will be sidelined is undetermined at this time," he added. (OHL)

By the numbers, Grubauer (.903 save percentage, 3.62 goals-against) has not been that superior to the heir apparent, 17-year-old Franky Palazzese (.891, 4.09), especially since the German netminder's numbers have been padded by starting six of Kingston's seven games against the Belleville Bulls, the OHL's lowest-scoring team. Only so much can be expected from a rookie, although Palazzese has played well in spurts.

The loss of Grubauer puts an exclamation point on arguments there is more wrong with Kingston than not having Gudbranson, who is back from an eight-game sitdown for a flying elbow on Oshawa's J.P. Labardo.

Earlier this week, Patrick King of earlier this week referred to Kingston needing to "right a sinking ship" prior to the playoffs. On this end, it seemed best to eschew wondering aloud about coach Doug Gilmour's team when it was missing theri best player. It's only fair when a team is icing an incomplete lineup.

However, Kingston, whose ambitions were made abundantly apparent by its trade for Boston Bruins second-rounder Ryan Spooner in November and additions of two overages, sniper Sean Jones and defenceman Mitch Gaulton, is running a tepid fifth (24-24-3-2, a dead-even .500) in the OHL's Eastern Conference. Talk about enigmatic. It's been oft-quoted that their record when Gudbranson plays (.672 point percentage, 18-8-2-1) is vastly better than when the future Florida Panthers rearguard has been out (.292, or 6-16-1-1).

The rub is there is no way that 380-percentage-point gap can all come down to the big blueliner's considerable presence. The most apt comparision is probably last season. Kingston won 27-of-48 games when it had Gudbranson and only 10-of-27 when he was variously sidelined by a knee injury and, wait for it, mononucleosis. That's about a .200 difference, with a team which was not as talented as what Gilmour has this season. Play with that for a while. Meantime, Grubauer is gone for a while.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. (Photo: OHL Images.)

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