Apr 1, 2012; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders left wing Michael Haley (18) and Ottawa Senators right wing Chris Neil (25) fight during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE
Bad news at Ottawa Senators practice today as Chris Neil was injured after falling head-first into the boards during a shootout drill. The extent of the injury hasn't been released yet, but he did not travel with the team to New Jersey for the season's final game against the Devils. The injury is likely affecting his shoulders, back, or head.
Neil's been a big part of Ottawa's success this season, and has stepped into a leadership role as a stand-in associate captain on the team. If he misses some or all of this season's playoff run, his position will be difficult to fill for whichever forward steps into them--especially is the Senators face off against the physical Boston Bruins in the first round. The Senators have pugilist Zenon Konopka waiting in the wings, but he doesn't have nearly as much offensive potential as Neil, and isn't as selective in his fight selections--he seems to take on all comers, while Neil is more strategic and selective with the times and opponents he challenges. Kaspars Daugavins and Bobby Butler are also available, but neither are physical presences on the ice.
We'll post updates as the degree of Neil's injury is made more clear.
UPDATE (April 7, 2012 at 1:48 p.m.): According to the Ottawa Citizen, the Senators expect Neil to be ready for the start of the playoffs. That's good news.