|Senators forward Milan Michalek will shut it down for the season after suffering a torn left ACL in Ottawa's opening game of its Eastern Conference quarter-final series in Pittsburgh (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
The Ottawa Senators' feel-good start to the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs took a rather sobering hit today.
Senators general manager Bryan Murray confirmed this afternoon that forward Milan Michalek
has been sidelined for the season with a complete tear of the ACL in his left knee.
It's the same injury that felled Alex Kovalev, another one of the team's top six forwards. Michalek will also require surgery, likely in about two weeks after the swelling goes down.
Michalek first injured the knee in a March 18 game in Atlanta. He returned for the Senators' final two games of the regular season but didn't make it through the first game of the opener of the Eastern Conference quarter-final series in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, limping off the ice in the second period after re-aggravating the injury.
Murray called the damage, which was revealed in a post-game examination, "very similar" to the knee injury suffered by Kovalev last week.
"He’s been playing with a brace — he had partially torn (the ACL) some time ago (against the Thrashers)," Murray said of Michalek, who has undergone three previous surgeries on his other knee. "At that point we knew he had issues and a problem. We asked him if he wanted to continue to try to play (this season). We talked to the doctors, we talked to his agent, we talked to Milan.
"He definitely wanted to give it a go and, unfortunately, he lasted only a very short time in a game of importance."
The Senators earned themselves a gritty 5-4 victory over the Stanley Cup-champion Penguins but must now ponder life without Michalek, their third-leading goal scorer during the regular season with 22. The Senators are also without veteran defenceman Filip Kuba
, who is recovering from back surgery, for this series.
"It’s hard to fill in for top players," admitted Murray. "Milan is a top player, Kovalev is a top player, Kuba is a top player. We’ll probably miss Kuba as much as much as anything on the back end. He was such a poised offensive guy for us that made everybody else up front look better."
"He’s been playing with a brace — he had partially torn (the ACL) some time ago. At that point we knew he had issues and a problem. We asked him if he wanted to continue to try to play (this season). We talked to the doctors, we talked to his agent, we talked to Milan. He definitely wanted to give it a go and unfortunately, he lasted only a very short time in a game of importance." - Bryan Murray
On the flip side, the Senators had to go without their entire top line — Michalek, centre Jason Spezza
and captain Daniel Alfredsson
— for an extended period in January. Head coach Cory Clouston said the experience of playing without Michalek in particular allowed other players to take on more pronounced roles. Rookie centre Peter Regin
has thrived on the top trio since Michalek originally went down with the knee problem.
"I guess the only plus side to all of this is that we have played a lot of games without (Michalek)," said Clouston. "He's had injuries throughout the season and we've been able to adjust. It's tough to replace a player like him, but we've had to in the past and we'll do it again."
Added Alfredsson: "It's a tough break but, once again, we move on. We've got people that can step in and fill different roles. So nothing changes for us.
"I don't see it as a big problem for us. You would love to stay healthy but we're not. We'll keep playing the same way. We're not going to change anything and everybody's going to pull as hard as they can, no matter what happens."
With Michalek out, Ryan Shannon is expected to draw into the lineup for Game 2 on Friday night (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). He skated on the fourth line alongside Zack Smith
and Jesse Winchester
during the Senators' practice earlier this afternoon, while Nick Foligno
was elevated to the second unit with Mike Fisher and Matt Cullen.Around the boards
Third-line centre Chris Kelly, whose three points (one goal, two assists) fuelled the Game 1 triumph, woke up this morning and found himself on top of the playoff scoring race. "I'm sure it'll be short-lived, but it's nice," the sharp-witted Kelly said with a chuckle ... Alfredsson took a maintenance day off practice today but is expected to be in the lineup Friday ... Fewer than 250 tickets remain for Game 3 of the series, which will be played Sunday night at Scotiabank Place (6:30 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). About 2,000 tickets are left for Game 4, set for Tuesday in Ottawa (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).