The news was not good for Brett Connolly or the Prince George Cougars.
The knee injury he sustained during Wednesdays 5-2 loss in Chilliwack is going to keep him out of the lineup for the next three to six weeks.
Connolly was involved in a knee-on-knee collision with Bruins centre Steve Oursov late in the first period Wednesday. He tried to skate again a few minutes later but immediately returned to the bench and headed for the dressing room.
Doctors in Chilliwack and Prince George examined Connollys right knee and determined he has suffered a sprain. If hes out for three weeks, he will miss a minimum of eight games, including tonights match-up against the Bruins at CN Centre, the first of a two-game weekend series.
Its very unfortunate, Brett obviously went through some injury woes last year and this is another setback for him, but certainly nothing like last year, said Cougars head coach Dean Clark. Its just a matter of him doing the hard work and getting the rehab done and hell come back when hes ready.
There was no penalty called on Oursov, who was not injured on the play.
He just came to hit [Connolly] and kind of stood in his path a little bit -- it ended up being knee-on-knee and [Oursov] didnt do a lot to get out of the way, said Clark. He tried to turn his body but left his knee there and there was no call on the play, which was really disappointing. The league has the video of it now and obviously there will be some decisions [on a possible suspension for Oursov] there. Regardless of whos getting hit, we just cant go knee-on-knee, its too dangerous. We want to take that right out of hockey, whether its our level, minor hockey or the NHL.
Hip injuries spoiled Connolly sophomore season last year and he played in only 16 of 72 games. But hes been healthy throughout this season and made the roster of Canadas world junior team as an 18 year old. The first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2010 draft is the Cougars leading scorer (25 goals, 15 assists, 40 points). The eight games hes missed came during his time with Team Canada.
A positive for us is we just went four weeks without him and our team played pretty well, Clark said. Weve already been through a stint with it and I think our guys realize when we get everybody on the same page we can still do some good things.
It will give some other guys the opportunity to step up in some situations and guys like Greg Fraser (who scored both Cougar goals Thursday) to get more time on the power play.
The Cougars have 30 games left in the season.
Despite losing their last two games, the Cats are still tied for first in the B.C. Division. The Cougars and Vancouver Giants each have 45 points, with Prince George holding a game in hand. Fifth-place Chilliwack is just five points behind the Cougars and Giants.
Wednesdays first period also proved costly to Cougars centre Charles Inglis, who took a high stick under his visor. Ingliss eye immediately swelled, but he remained in the game.
He did not practice Thursday and Clark was unsure if he would put him in the lineup for tonights game. Im not real big on guys who dont practice playing the game the next day, said Clark. His eye is still bothering him and well see how he is [today].
The Cougars (21-18-2-1) have lost their last four games on the road. While the 5-2 count in Chilliwack was the same as Tuesdays loss in Vancouver, Clark said his team was much improved against the Bruins.
Clark has switched goalies at midstream in each of the last four games, three of which ended as losses, and hes hoping to Ty Rimmer will get the job done tonight. He brought Rimmer into the game to replace James Priestner after the Bruins scored their fifth goal in the third period Thursday.
We got down 1-0 on a play we gave up on and then we gave up a terrible goal [a long-range shot from Roman Horak] to make it 2-0 and it seems were always battling back from situations where bad goals are going in, said Clark. We had some great chances, we just didnt take advantage of the opportunities that we were given. I dont like pulling goalies but just like if we sit a defenceman down for a period of time because he hasnt played well, or a forward, if our goaltender is going to let some goals in that I feel arent acceptable, thats not good either.
n Bruins defenceman Brandon Manning tested his injured groin in the pre-game skate Wednesday but did not play and is not expected to play in either game this weekend. The 20-year-old from Prince George, who signed his first pro contract last month with the Philadelphia Flyers, was the WHLs leading scorer among blueliners with 13 goals and 18 assists for 31 points when he got hurt. Hes since missed 12 games.
Bruins winger Ryan Howse, also a native of Prince George, will be in the lineup tonight. Having signed an NHL deal with the Calgary Flames, Howse leads the Bruins with 45 points and 27 goals in 39 games.