This time last year Nail Yakupov was putting the finishing touches on his acclaimed rookie campaign. Through his last eight games, he scored five goals to vault to the top of the league’s leaderboard among rookies, with 17 goals and 14 assists, edging out the Florida Panthers Jonathan Huberdeau with his late push.
But any thoughts of orchestrating another strong finish were erased when he was left with a cracked bone in his ankle. Initially injured on Feb. 27, Yakupov missed the following tilt, returned to the lineup for seven games then stepped out of the lineup.
He’s missed the last eight and with just four games remaining, all on home ice and all squeezed into a seven-day window, he isn’t expected to return. He’ll close out his season with 11 goals and 13 assists through the 63 games he played in a trying sophomore campaign that even saw him head to the press box as a healthy scratch.
“Even if he is able to skate, he’s going to need three or four days of practice and we’ve run...