Canadiens to face 'Canes minus Koivu

Thursday, 27.04.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
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Canadiens to face \'Canes minus Koivu


Canadiens captain Saku Koivu was knocked out of Wednesday's game against Carolina when he was cut near his left eye by a high stick from the Hurricanes' Justin Williams.

MONTREAL - While his long term status remains unknown, Saku Koivu will miss Friday's Game 4 of the Canadiens-Hurricanes playoff matchup after suffering an eye injury in Montreal's 2-1 overtime loss to Carolina Wednesday night. Bob Gainey confirmed Thursday morning that Koivu remains hospitalized while awaiting further tests on his eye, and that the Canadiens captain will be sidelined for an undetermined period.

Koivu suffered the injury when he was accidentally struck near the left eye by the stick of Hurricanes forward Justin Williams early in the second period of Game 3.

"I've been told that his condition is stable and more testing needs to be done once the swelling goes down," said Gainey. "Saku will be examined further over the next couple of days and he will not be available to us an active player for an undetermined period."

The news of Koivu's status quickly spread to the Canadiens' dressing room.

"His return to the lineup is the furthest thing from anyone's mind right now," said Rivet. "We just want him to get better."

Rivet managed to speak to Koivu on Thursday morning.

"Saku is a tough guy with a lot of mental strength," added Rivet. "He was in good spirits when I spoke to him this morning and I know he will get through this. That's just the way Saku is, he never shies away from any challenge. He's relentless, which is why he's such a great leader for us."

Former teammate and close personal friend Mark Recchi of the Hurricanes is also crossing his fingers for a speedy recovery by Koivu.

"I called and left him a few messages last night and again this morning," said Recchi, who played four seasons with Koivu in Montreal from 1995-96 through 1998-99. "The play was clearly an accident and my focus right now is on Saku getting better. Hopefully there wasn't any serious damage done."

Williams also gave Koivu a call on Thursday morning after getting the Canadiens captain's phone number from Recchi.

"I called to wish him well," said Williams, who left Koivu a message. "I was trying to lift his stick, missed it and my stick came up and caught him just under the visor. It was an accident and I'm sure he knows that. No one wants to see anyone get hurt out there."

The Hurricanes know a thing or two about what it's like to soldier on without an impact player and leader like Koivu. Carolina has been without Erik Cole since he suffered a serious neck injury in early March.

"You never know what can happen at any given moment," said Hurricanes' captain Rod Brind'Amour. "Losing a player like Koivu won't be easy for the Canadiens and we know all about that. Having our best player Erik Cole go down the way he did continues to be difficult on all of us."

Seeing a captain leave the ice with an eye injury was an unfortunate case of déjà  vu for former Red Wings defenseman Mathieu Dandenault, who saw Steve Yzerman fracture his orbital bone against Calgary in the second round of the 2004 playoffs.

"Whenever a player goes down like that it's always hard," admitted Dandenault. "I remember the puck deflecting off a defenseman's stick of and hitting Steve in the eye. You always hope they won't, but these things happen. We're all just going to have to step up."

The Canadiens will be looking to take a commanding 3-1 series lead on Friday night at the Bell Centre, while the Hurricanes aim to tie things up at 2-2 before heading back to Carolina for Game 5.

Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com