The primary story surrounding the blueline of the Philadelphia Flyers has been the impeding return of Mark Streit, and the roster move that would be necessary in order to fit him under the salary cap ceiling.
On Sunday afternoon, that debate was overshadowed the news of a new injury to a Flyers defenseman - Michael Del Zotto.
According to the Flyers, Del Zotto suffered an upper-body injury and is day-to-day. He will at least miss tonight's contest against the Anaheim Ducks.
Injury Update: Michael Del Zotto is out tonight vs. Anaheim & is considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury → https://t.co/m6K47B3KIP— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) December 27, 2015
Del Zotto has functioned as the team's top defenseman this season in terms of usage. He leads the team in average even strength minutes per game, and also plays on the team's power play and penalty kill. Despite the heavy usage, Del Zotto has remained a positive puck possession player at even strength, posting a 52.37% on-ice Corsi For percentage.
The absence of Del Zotto should bring Brandon Manning back into the lineup, as per the Flyers' beat writers on the California road trip, Mark Streit is not yet ready to return to action. The injury does not seem terribly serious, as Del Zotto did skate at practice on Saturday on a pairing with Streit. But considering Del Zotto's prominent role on the blueline, any length of absence will be a tough blow to overcome for Philadelphia.
In addition, this could complicate Streit's eventual return. If Del Zotto's absence proves to be a long one, the Flyers may hesitate to cut their depth on the blueline, either by sending Shayne Gostisbehere down to the AHL or by waiving Brandon Manning. Both are options for the team to fit a healthy Streit under the salary cap.
For now, Philadelphia will have to continue their California trek without the services of one of their best defensemen. They can only hope his absence from the lineup is a brief one.