Bruins' Leetch leaves early with injured knee

11/1/2005 - NHL Brian Leetch Boston Bruins + more

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Brian Leetch injured his right knee in the second period of the Boston Bruins' 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday night and didn't return.

Leetch limped out of Nassau Coliseum without the use of crutches, but said he was sore and was wearing a brace. The 37-year-old defenseman, in his first season with the Bruins, has never had a knee injury since entering the NHL with the New York Rangers in 1988.

His first occurred with about three minutes left in the middle period when he collided with Islanders forward Shawn Bates as both went for the puck along the side wall.

"I didn't see the puck in the dasher, I thought it was going down the boards," Leetch said in a dejected tone. "All of a sudden it was in front of me. So I went for it, and he dove and crashed into my knee.

"It was either his helmet or his shoulder that hit my knee."

Bates scored the winning goal with only 28.2 seconds left in overtime.

Leetch, who signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Bruins this summer, expected to go for tests and to see doctors on Wednesday. Because he felt pain on the inside of his knee, the two-time Norris Trophy winner speculated that he injured his medial collateral ligament.

"Eighteen years ago, my left knee I hurt. I've never had a knee
injury in the pros," Leetch said.

When asked if a week off the ice might be the best-case scenario, Leetch was able to smile and crack a joke.

"Best case, I'll be better tomorrow," he said.

Boston coach Mike Sullivan didn't have details about Leetch's injury immediately after the game, and no doctors examined the defenseman. Sullivan was already figuring that Leetch wouldn't play Thursday when the Bruins return home to face Florida.

"They don't think it's real serious but obviously enough to keep him out of our lineup," Sullivan said.

Leetch, who grew up in Connecticut and played one season at Boston College, spent his first 17-plus NHL seasons with the Rangers before being dealt to Toronto at the 2004 trade deadline. This was his first game back in the New York metropolitan area.

He hasn't faced the Rangers anywhere since the trade.

Leetch has three goals and five assists in 14 games this season. In 1,158 regular-season games -- all but 29 spent with New York --
Leetch has 245 goals and 759 assists. He ranks seventh on the
career points list among NHL defenseman with 1,004.

This just added to the Bruins' injury woes.

Boston is already without top goalie Andrew Raycroft (hamstring); defenseman Ian Moran (knee); center Alex Zhamnov (shoulder); and right winger Pat Leahy (broken finger).

The Bruins had former Islanders forward Brad Isbister back in the lineup Tuesday, following a three-game absence due to a groin injury. But he also left in the second period after he hurt it again.