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Leg injury hobbles Kuba on camp's opening day

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators defenceman Filip Kuba made an early exit on the opening day of training camp after catching a rut in the ice. The severity of the injury isn't yet known (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

As he pondered the start of a new hockey year, Filip Kuba exuded a sense of relief and proclaimed himself a healthy, happy camper.

"I'm happy I'm 100 per cent now and I'm looking forward to (this) season," the veteran Ottawa Senators defenceman said earlier this week as he reflected upon a 2009-10 campaign that was cut short by a herniated disc that required season-ending surgery.

Turns out Kuba didn't have to wait long to find himself a new source of misery. The Czech blueliner made an early exit from his first on-ice session at Senators training camp earlier today, suffering a right leg injury after catching a rut in the ice at Scotiabank Place. The severity of Kuba's latest ailment isn't yet known.

"He's going for X-rays this afternoon and then we'll know a little bit more," said Senators coach Cory Clouston. "Right leg right now, that's all we can say. He caught a rut and went down."

Kuba's wonky back limited him to 53 games of action last season, the lowest total of his career. He shut it down last season on April 6, opting for season-ending surgery in Los Angeles that shelved Kuba for the playoffs. If there was a glimmer of light for Clouston today, it's in the timing of his defenceman's latest setback.

"We had to play a lot without (Kuba) last year and we may start this season without him again," said Clouston. "But I guess if you're going to do it, doing it at the beginning of the year is a lot better than at the end, when we'll miss you for the playoffs."

If Kuba is unvailable for an extended period, that could open the door for another blueliner to make an early impression on the coaching staff. That group would include highly-touted Jared Cowen, the Senators' top pick (ninth overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, along with Brian Lee and another young prospect, Patrick Wiercioch. Lee, the ninth overall pick in the 2005 draft, saw 23 games' worth of duty with the big club last season.

"Bad luck for (Kuba)," said Clouston. But maybe an opportunity for someone else we can get a little bit longer of a look at (who) may have to start the season with us rather than down in Binghamton."

"We had to play a lot without (Kuba) last yer and we may start this season without him again. "But I guess if you're going to do it, doing it at the beginning of the year is a lot better than at the end, when we'll miss you for the playoffs." - Cory Clouston
Clouston also acknowledged Kuba's injury might factor into any thoughts he might have about defence pairings — most notably the duo of Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips, who seem to be a logical match, given the skill set and experience that each can bring to the table.

"With Filip going down, we may have to re-evaluate who plays with who," said Clouston. "We'll have to wait until we see how serious it is."

Early on, at least, Phillips and Gonchar both like the possibilties of a partnership.

"I told a couple of the guys it kind of reminds me of playing with Igor Kravchuk a few years ago," said Phillips. "Every little pass you get is a nice saucer pass and he's got a lot of finesse to his game. You definitely have to be aware that you could get the puck at any time."

Gonchar, meanwhile, sees a potential partner who's similar in style to Brooks Orpik, his former playing mate with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season.

"I've played against (Phillips) a lot of times and I know what he's capable of," said Gonchar. "He's a stay-at-home defenceman ... who's always playing against the top lines. Now we have to find some chemistry and play well together."

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