If the Vancouver Canucks are going to make a deep run into the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, they could be forced to do it without one of their premiere defensive forwards.
Manny Malhotra underwent surgery on his left eye Thursday after being hit by a puck during the second period of Wednesday's 4-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.
The Mississauga born third line centre is second in the league in faceoff percentage and is a major contributor to the Canucks' league-leading penalty kill.
Head coach Alain Vigneault would not disclose the length of time he was expecting to be without Malhotra; instead he was more interested in discussing the effect this injury will have on the forward's life outside of hockey.
"He was emotional," said Vigneault. "Anytime you are talking about an injury like that it's very challenging on a personal level and a family level."
While acknowledging the challenges of losing an important player like Malhotra, forward Ryan Kesler does not believe this will lead to a letdown in play for the NHL's number one team.
"You never want to see a guy go down," Kesler said. "We've dealt with a lot of diversity and I don't expect any downfall in our game. We're all going to have to pick up the slack and it's going to have to be by committee, everyone is going to have to pick it up."
In addition to what he does in the faceoff circle and on the penalty kill, Malhotra has also chipped in with 11 goals and 19 assists to help pace the offensive attack. It is, however, what he does for the team behind closed doors that forward Raffi Torres believes will be missed the most.
"There aren't too many guys that can replace Manny just what he does on the ice; he's a warrior out there," said Torres. "I think for the most part it's what he does in the room, the way he acts and how he gets the best out of everyone. He makes everyone around him a better person."
The immediate impact on the Vancouver lineup will be a few changes to the combinations. Maxim Lapierre will now centre the number three line and Mason Raymond will move from playing the wing on the second to the fourth line centre position in place of Lapierre.
Replacing Malhotra's presence on the penalty kill and at the faceoff dot will be the biggest challenge the Canucks will face down the stretch and into the playoffs if he is not able to return this season.