Canadiens captain Koivu not sure yet if he can start playoffs

MONTREAL – Saku Koivu is optimistic his fractured left foot will heal enough to let him start the playoffs but the Montreal Canadiens captain said Saturday nothing is certain.

“What’s going to happen in the future, for the first game, we’ll see next week,” Koivu said. “Every day it feels better, but there’s not much we can tell.

“We’ll know a lot more in the next couple of days.”

The Canadiens were scheduled to finish up their regular season Saturday night against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, then begin the playoffs at home Thursday.

Koivu fractured a small bone in his foot while blocking a shot March 28 in Buffalo and missed the final four games of the regular season.

“With a fractured foot, you know it’s going to heal,” he said. “The timing is the bummer, but there’s nothing we can do about that.

“I faced a lot of adversity with illness and injuries early in my career and I’ve always come back, so I’ll be back there when I feel ready to get into game action.”

Michael Ryder, who has an unspecified leg injury, skated with his teammates Saturday morning but was told he would sit out a second straight game.

“He’s not 100 per cent, so we’ll give him another four or five days to get ready,” said coach Guy Carbonneau.

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Centre Mikhail Grabovski was to miss a third game with the flu. Defencemen Mike Komisarek (hip) and Francis Bouillon (ankle) are also out, but are expected to be ready for the playoffs.

It was a big day for rookie winger Greg Stewart, who was to play his first NHL game against the Leafs. The 21-year-old Stewart, who likes to play a physical game, was called up from AHL Hamilton this week.

“It couldn’t be any bigger stage – Hockey Night In Canada – and I’m from right around Toronto (Kitchener, Ont.),” said Stewart. “I think I turned a couple of Leafs fans into Montreal fans.”

The six-foot-two, 200-pound Stewart, whose cousin Cam Stewart played six seasons, mostly with Boston, in the 1990s, was drafted 246th overall by Montreal in 2004 from the Peterborough Petes.

After junior, he worked his way up through the ECHL and the AHL to get his first NHL start.

“Being a late round draft pick, there’s not as high expectations on you, so you just work hard and try to keep proving everyone wrong that I can’t make it,” he said. “It’s working so far.”