by John McCauley
March 27, 2004
(TORONTO) -- It wouldn't be close to playoff time unless the Leafs suffered a serious injury to one of their stars.
The hockey gods obliged during the Leafs' 2-2 tie with the Ottawa Senators when Owen Nolan suffered what appeared to be a very serious knee injury.
Nolan was playing his regular rough-and-tumble style when he tried to finish his check on Bryan Smolinski in the second period. With the Sens' forward up against the glass, Nolan caught his knee in an awkward position and fell to the ice in pain.
|Owen Nolan looks as if he'll be out of the lineup for quite a while. |
(Graig Abel Photography)
Nolan tried to make it to the bench but he couldn't get to his feet and needed assistance to get off the ice and back into the training room. Needless to say he didn't return.
"There's a lot of pain and swelling right now," head coach Pat Quinn said. "We'll have the doctors look at him tomorrow. We're all hopeful it isn't too long."
It looked like a very innocent play at the time, but sometimes, especially when the knee is involved, the lightest contact can cause the biggest of problems.
"I don't know what happened to him," said Ed Belfour, who stopped 28 shots to help preserve the tie. "We'd definitely miss him for sure (if he's out for a long time).
The Senators didn't escape the game without injury either. Goaltender Patrick Lalime injured his left knee while playing the puck behind the net in the first period. Martin Prusek stepped in and proved himself well stopping 21 shots. Bryan McCabe's goal in the third was a little smelly, but he did make some big saves.
Who is likely to be Nolan's replacement in the lineup is a question mark. Mikael Renberg is the obvious choice, but he isn't likely to be ready for Monday night's game against the visiting Atlanta Thrashers. The winger is aiming at next Friday in Buffalo for his return.
Matt Stajan would be the next in line. If he is chosen Quinn would have to juggle his lines. Tie Domi could move up to the third line with Ron Francis and Chad Kilger leaving Stajan playing with Fitzgerald and Robert Reichel. Stajan has proven he's better at centre than on the wing, but it's very unlikely Quinn would put him there over Reichel.
The Leafs remain a point ahead of the Senators in the Northeast Division standing, fourth overall in the Eastern Conference with three games remaining.