Canucks' Ballard out 3-4 weeks with mild knee sprain Staff

2/9/2011 12:34:37 AM

Another game, another injury for the depleted Vancouver Canucks' defence core.

But speaking with cautious optimism, Keith Ballard doesn't think the right leg injury suffered Monday night against Ottawa was as severe as it originally looked.

"It was stiff this morning, (which is) to be expected," said Ballard, "After sleeping last night, it stiffened up. I've been here for a few hours today, doing treatment, and it's helped quite a bit.  It wasn't bad. It's been pretty good. Kind of by the way it felt, I think it's kind of better than I expected. It feels better."

Late Tuesday night Canucks General Manager Mike Gillis announced through twitter that Ballard's MRI showed a mild knee sprain and he's expected to miss 3-4 weeks.

Ballard suffered the injury when he was tripped up from behind by Senators' forward Milan Michalek, a play that Gillis felt was dirty.

"I saw it as a play that in my opinion was a violation of the rules, one that is not a highly respected play at this level," Gillis told Vancouver radio station TEAM1040.  "The puck wasn't near Keith when it happened, and I certainly disagree with that style of play."

The Canucks are already short-handed on the back end with Alex Edler out since having back surgery. The team is hoping to have him back once the playoffs start. The team has also been without Sami Salo all season, as he works his way back to the lineup after suffering an Achilles injury in the offseason.

In all, the Canucks have lost six blueliners at various times this year.

If that wasn't enough, the team also had a scare at practice Tuesday, as Andrew Alberts was hit in the throat by a puck in practice.  Alberts remained on the ice for awhile before skating back to the bench under his own power.

"It feels like on the back end, there's always somebody hurt. And today, in practice, another injury, fortunately it wasn't anything serious," said Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa. "But, that's one of the strengths of this team, is being to able deal with injuries. If you're a good team you have to do that, because you're going to lose key guys throughout the course of the year."

The Canucks' back end was also weakened at practice, as goalie Roberto Luongo missed Tuesday's session with the flu. He'll be a backup for Cory Schneider Wednesday against Anaheim.

"They talked to me last week and said that, some point this week I would probably get the start and they told me before the game I'd be playing against Anaheim," Schneider said. "Lou, I don't think is feeling great, but it was planned before that."