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Koivu on the road to recovery

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

Saku Koivu, who continues to recover from his left eye injury, was happy to be back at the Bell Centre on Friday afternoon.

MONTREAL - The update on Saku Koivu's eye injury finally came on Friday with the best news of the day being that a smiling Koivu himself delivered the much-anticipated prognosis.

The sight of the Canadiens captain was a welcome one, especially with Koivu being only nine days removed from being helped from the ice following a Justin Williams high stick in the second period of last Wednesday's Game 3 against the Hurricanes.

"The vision is slowly getting better," said a relieved Koivu. "There are good days and there are bad days. There's still a lot of blood, especially behind the eye, and sometimes it hits the vision part and I can't really see anything. But then a couple of hours later, I'm fine.  I guess it's going to be like that for a week or so, the doctors don't know for sure."

Thankfully for Koivu there was no damage to the front of his left eye. He does, however, have a small broken bone around his eye socket, which is expected to heal on its own.

"The front part of the eye looks okay, but because of the blood and the swelling, they can't see behind the retina. So there might be something that needs surgery but we don't know that yet," said Koivu. "It's a waiting game right now, like it's been since day one.  My vision is improving and the pain is gone, but if something is wrong, we'll find out hopefully in the next few days.

"Everything that they've found so far has been very positive," said Koivu, who continues to be monitored by team ophthalmologist Dr. John Little. "But the doctor hasn't been able to see behind the eye and there might be a tear behind the retina or something that needs surgery."

Although he is now almost out of the woods, the hours immediately following the incident were terrifying for Koivu, who was completely blind in one eye.

"The first night and the next day were the toughest because I couldn't see anything," explained Koivu. "It was just total darkness and at that point and no one could tell me for sure if I was going to get my vision back or not.

"The pain was pretty bad as well. It was the first time I've ever suffered an eye injury but it affected my whole body. The state of shock I was in was also something I'd never experienced before."

In spite of everything he was going through during those difficult early moments, a phone call he received from an apologetic Hurricanes forward did not go unnoticed.

"I thought it was first-class that [Justin Williams] phoned me the next day," said Koivu. "My phone wasn't on but he left me a message. I talked to Mark Recchi the day after and he explained how terrible Justin felt about the whole incident.

"I've seen the replay and I don't think there's anything wrong," added Koivu who also made a point to mention that a double minor should certainly have been whistled by the referee. "He was trying to lift my stick and it was just very unlucky that he missed. Then the stick struck my face at almost the worst possible angle.  Everything happened so quickly, but these things are a part of the game and I have no bad feelings or anything like that against Justin."
Once concerns about Koivu's long term health were quelled, it didn't take very long for the discussion to shift to Montreal's other hot button topic-the looming free agent status of Cristobal Huet.

When asked what he would say to Bob Gainey if he turned to Koivu for his opinion on how he should handle the Huet situation, Koivu proved how well he understands his general manager.
"Well, he's not going to ask my opinion," smiled Koivu.

"But seriously, I think it's pretty obvious what kind of impact Huey had on our team," Koivu said. "I mean, seven shutouts in 20-something games?  That's pretty damn good.  Is he going to make our team better?  Yes he will.  Do I hope he's going to be back?  Definitely, 100 per cent.  At the same time, there's always two parts to a negotiation but I'm sure that the team and Bob feel that they want to have him back here. 

"I've talked to Cristobal and all I can tell you is that I know that he's very anxious to get back here next year."

Judging from the smile on Saku's face on Friday, Huet isn't the only one.

Manny Almela is a writer for

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