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'Freak accident' bumps Sens' Michalek to sideline

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators winger Milan Michalek seized the NHL lead in goal-scoring during Tuesday's overtime triumph in Buffalo, notching his 19th of the season. But later in the game, Michalek suffered a concussion in a collision with teammate Erik Karlsson and is now sidelined. His status is day to day (Getty Images).

The National Hockey League's leading goal scorer has hit a bump in the road.

Literally and figuratively.

Milan Michalek won't be in the lineup for the Ottawa Senators tonight, when the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins pay a visit to Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1200). The speedy Czech winger is dealing with a concussion suffered when he collided with teammate Erik Karlsson during Tuesday's 3-2 overtime triumph over the Sabres in Buffalo.

The "freak accident," as Senators centre Jason Spezza described it, occurred late in the second period. Michalek had seized the NHL goal-scoring lead in the first with his 19th of the season, continuing a sizzling start that — for the first time in his three seasons in Ottawa — hadn't been interrupted by injury.

But while knee problems cost Michalek 16 games in each of the last two seasons, Senators head coach Paul Maclean doesn't expect his latest ailment will be that costly in terms of time lost Earlier this season, a concussion sidelined Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson for five games.

"It’s disappointing for him, for sure," MacLean said following an optional Senators pre-game skate earlier today. "I don’t believe at this point it’s going to ruin his year, much like the other major injuries he’s had in the past that put him out for months and months. At this point in time, we suspect it will be day to day. It’s disappointing, but it’s not devastating.

"Right now, we have to follow the (NHL's) concussion protocol, so right now it's day to day. It's based on as long as he's symptom-free. He felt way better (Wednesday), so we'll see how it goes."

With Michalek sidelined, Bobby Butler — a healthy scratch in Buffalo — will draw back into the lineup. But there's no doubt the Senators will feel the absence of a guy who's been playing at an all-star level and ranks sixth among forwards in the balloting for the 2012 mid-season classic, set for Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place.

"It’s 19 less goals we can put in the lineup," said MacLean. "He leads the league in goals, so he’s an important part of our team in the offensive part of our game."

But like they've had to do already many times this season, the Senators will circle the wagons and make the best out of it.

"(Michalek) is somebody other teams pay a lot of attention to and he’s definitely tough to replace, but it’ll give somebody else an opportunity," said Spezza.. "It’ll give Bobby a chance to get back into the lineup and he’s looking to break out."

Added winger Colin Greening: "He’s a big part of our team. He’s our leading goal scorer and that’s going to hurt us, but we have a lot of guys who can step into different roles. No doubt about it, it’s going to be hard to have Milan out, but the good thing about our team is we’ve got a lot of depth."

MacLean admitted he initially had more concern for the smaller Karlsson, who was on the ice longer after the collision. But the NHL's top-scoring defenceman says he'll be good to go against the Bruins.

"Milan came full speed and we both tried to avoid it, but we still collided," Karlsson said in describing the mishap. "Things like that, you can’t do much about. It’s just bad luck, I think. It’s something that’s part of the game. There’s a lot of guys out there and it’s just bad luck we both had so much speed and collided straight on."

Said Spezza: "They’re freak accidents. Sometimes, it’s harder to get away from your own guys because you get that deer in the headlights look. Nobody knows which direction the other guy is going ... it’s easier to avoid a guy when you know he’s coming at you to hit you."

Around the boards

Veteran defencemen Filip Kuba and Sergei Gonchar, who are both still out with upper body injuries, took part in the optional skate today and MacLean is hopeful one of them will be ready by Friday, when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). "I'm not sure who's ahead of the other," said MacLean. "The positive sign is they both skated today. We'll see where it goes for Friday" ... Craig Anderson gets the start in goal for Ottawa tonight and will debut his new heritage-themed mask ... Greening had a career-best nine shots on goal in Buffalo. Asked the last time he recorded that many shots in a game, he said "I don't know. Atom?" ... Fewer than 1,500 tickets remain for tonight's game, including 300 in the Coke Zero Zone starting at $18.

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