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Koivu's upbeat message not enough to lift Habs

4/30/2006 - NHL Saku Koivu Montreal Canadiens + more

MONTREAL -- Canadiens captain Saku Koivu delivered some good
news to his teammates before they faced the Carolina Hurricanes on
Friday night. It just wasn't enough to inspire Montreal to a
victory.

Koivu, who was struck in the eye by an errant stick in Game 3 of
the series Wednesday night, sent a message to his teammates that he
was released from the hospital and would be watching the game at
home.

He couldn't have liked what he saw as the Canadiens lost 3-2 and
will head back to Carolina with the series tied 2-2. Game 5 of the
best-of-seven matchup is Sunday.

"It was just a few words of encouragement," Canadiens
defenseman Sheldon Souray said. "Obviously, with a player as
important as him, and as well liked and respected in this room as
him, just to know that he's feeling a little bit more upbeat gives
a lift to the team. It was just nice that his spirits were a little
higher than they were yesterday."

Koivu was sent to the hospital after the stick of Carolina
forward Justin Williams struck him near the left eye. Doctors were
waiting for swelling to go down before running tests to see if
there was any damage to the eye.

"It's just a waiting game right now," Souray said.

Koivu's picture, taken in his hospital room, was splashed on the
front page of a Montreal tabloid on Friday showing his left eye
swollen shut with some stitches around it. The photo was taken
using a flash camera despite the fact Koivu's room was darkened to
give his eye some rest.

Several fans in the sellout crowd on Friday held up signs of
encouragement for a player who has already overcome a bout with
cancer and a series of injuries over the course of his 10-year NHL
career.

Canadiens coach and general manager Bob Gainey spoke after the
game about how his forwards did not work hard enough and were not
effective in the Game 4 loss, but didn't use Koivu's absence as an
excuse for their performance.

"I didn't see anyone looking and wondering if someone was going
to show up out of the blue," Gainey said. "It's part of their
lives. Players are in and players are out all through the season.
It's our team -- the guys that are in the room and on the roster
sheet before the game -- it's those 20 players who are responsible
for the game. It's not the guys who aren't there."