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Connolly sorry hit left Howden injured

Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 10:33 AM / 2012 World Junior Championship

By Aaron Vickers - NHL.com Correspondent

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Connolly sorry hit left Howden injured
Brett Connolly wants to be more of a physical presence heading into the 2012 World Junior Championship, but meeting his goal left a potential teammate hurting
CALGARY -- Team Canada coach Don Hay wanted to see forward Brett Connolly play more physical.

Unfortunately, he got what he asked for.

On Monday, midway through the second period of Canada's second intra-squad game here at Hockey Canada's National Junior Evaluation Camp, Connolly hammered Quinton Howden along the boards. Howden, a 2010 first-round pick of the Florida Panthers, struggled to get to his feet after the hit and stumbled before getting to the bench. He was taken to the dressing room immediately and did not return to the game. After the game, Hockey Canada announced Howden had an upper-body injury.

"It might've been a little bit late," Hay said. "We asked him to play more physical tonight and he did that. You're told to finish checks. I'm sure he didn't want to hurt him. (Howden) got hit and I think his head went back and hit the glass."

Connolly was remorseful for the Howden hit after the game.

"It's a tough play. I'm just trying to finish my check and he's kind of in a vulnerable position. I mean, if I was to go back maybe I would have held up a little bit, but I'm just trying to be intense and finish my checks and obviously I feel bad now. Hopefully he's not hurt too bad, but definitely could have held up a little bit."
-- Brett Connolly

"It's a tough play," Connolly said. "I'm just trying to finish my check and he's kind of in a vulnerable position. I mean, if I was to go back maybe I would have held up a little bit, but I'm just trying to be intense and finish my checks and obviously I feel bad now. Hopefully he's not hurt too bad, but definitely could have held up a little bit."

Hockey Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast called the hit a hockey play.

"It's hockey," Prendergast said. "Like anyone else, Brett's trying to make the hockey club and make an impression. He's probably the one guy who feels bad about it more than anything else. Stuff happens in hockey."

Howden is one of three forwards in camp -- Connolly and Jaden Schwartz are the others -- who won a silver medal with last year's team.

"It's tough to swallow," Connolly said. "Obviously I hope he's OK. I haven't talked to him yet. I'll apologize, but again, I'm just trying to finish my check and play intense. It's a tough play."
 
The hit comes at a time when Canada is fighting to get healthy as it prepares to pick its roster for the 2012 World Junior Championship, which starts Dec. 26.

Already without Jonathan Huberdeau as he recovers from a broken foot, the team also has shown caution with Brad Ross (lower-body injury), as well as Connolly himself. The forward suffered a lower-body injury during the third period of Sunday's game and his participation in Monday's game was questionable prior to puck drop. 

But Hay's level of concern might be highest on Howden, whose experience with the team last year cannot be replaced.

"We're concerned about anyone that's gotten hurt," Hay said. "You're always worried about it, especially with a guy who played last year and has experience."
Quote of the Day

There's no discouragement in that room. There's no issues there at all to be honest with you. It's more about, 'Hey, it's opportunities for players.' And if we become that bad of a team because of one player, it's not a real good sign for our hockey club. So this is part of sports. It's part of hockey.

— Bruins coach Claude Julien on the loss of Zdeno Chara to injury
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