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  • Wednesday, November 10, 1999

    Both Messier, Ohlund expected back in new year

     VANCOUVER (CP) -- The Vancouver Canucks got good news on two fronts Wednesday with word that both centre Mark Messier and defenceman Mattis Ohlund should return to action in the new year.
     
     Messier, 38, was diagnosed with a second-degree sprain in his right knee and will be sidelined a minimum of four weeks, said general manager Brian Burke.
     
     "We had feared it might be quite a bit more severe," Burke said. "That's good news. We're all optimistic.
     
     "Everyone knows how mentally and physically tough he is. Hopefully the four weeks is the outside."
     
     Burke also said a team of doctors successfully performed surgery to relieve the pressure that had been building behind Ohlund's right eye since the players was hit in the face with a puck during a Sept. 21 pre-season game in Ottawa.
     
     "The physicians who conducted the operation are very pleased with the way it went," Burke said.
     
     Messier hurt the knee in the opening minute of Tuesday's 4-4 tie with San Jose when he was pulled down in from of the Sharks net by defenceman Andy Sutton. The two fell to the ice and Messier's right leg tangled with Sutton's.
     
     Swearing and throwing his helmet in frustration, he was unable to put any weight on his leg and needed help to leave the ice.
     
     Messier has five goals and seven assists in 15 games.
     
     Dr. Rui Avelar, one of the surgeons involved in Ohlund's operation, said blood and fluid had pooled behind the eye, restricting Ohlund's vision so badly he had barely been able to see his recently born son.
     
     "It was one of the densest hemorrhages that anyone had ever seen, at least here in Vancouver," Avelar said. "With little instruments we literally sucked the blood out of the eye."
     
     Avelar predicted a quick recovery.
     
     "'We think he should be back in the new year," he said.
     
     Ohlund, 23, a native of Pitea, Sweden, finished second in Calder Trophy voting in 1998. He had nine goals and 26 assists last season and was expected to be a key factor for the Canucks this season.
     
     Ohlund spent the first two weeks after the injury in bed. It was Thanksgiving before he was allowed to walk.
     
     Messier missed 23 games last year.
     
     A concussion sidelined him for five games around Christmas and started a tailspin the Canucks never recovered from and eventually cost coach Mike Keenan his job. He missed another 18 games due to a sprained left knee.
     
     Vancouver had a 3-16-4 record without Messier in the lineup.
     
     His injury comes just as the Canucks are attempting to show they can run with the NHL's big dogs as well as kick the league's puppies.
     
     The Canucks are off to their best start in six years, but sceptics of the 8-5-3-1 record point out that during the first 14 games, Vancouver played teams with a combined 47-64-23-6 record.
     
     Vancouver is in the middle of a stretch of five games against teams who played in last spring's playoffs. The Canucks have a 1-3-1 record against the five playoff teams they've faced this season.
     
     The Canucks lost 6-1 to St. Louis last Sunday, then blew a 3-0 lead and had to settle for a tie with San Jose on Wednesday. They face the Coyotes -- who beat them 4-1 earlier this season -- in Phoenix on Friday, then return home for games against Colorado on Monday and Detroit on Wednesday.
    VANCOUVER CANUCKS



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