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Canucks lose defenceman Keith Ballard to leg injury in game against Senators

VANCOUVER - Vancouver Canucks defenceman Keith Ballard suffered a knee injury early in Monday's game against the Ottawa Senators, forcing him to leave the game.

Ballard’s right leg twisted as he fell awkwardly as he was pulled down by Senators winger Milan Michalek in the first three minutes. The defenceman lay writhing in pain holding his leg, then headed straight for the Vancouver dressing room and did not return.

After the Canucks won 4-2, coach Alain Vigneault confirmed that Ballard injured his knee and will be evaluated further Tuesday.

"He'll have an MRI and we'll know more then," Vigneault said.

The injury continues a hard-luck first season for Ballard, who was acquired last summer in a trade from the Florida Panthers. The 29-year-old native of Baudette, Minn., has been limited to 43 games because of a concussion, sickness and inconsistent play that resulted in him being a healthy scratch.

Ballard's injury comes as defenceman Sami Salo is due to rejoin the Canucks after recuperating from a torn Achilles tendon suffered while playing floor hockey in his native Finland in July. Salo is currently on a minor-league conditioning stint with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL.

Salo is slated to play against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Tuesday night and then rejoin the Canucks later in the week.

Vigneault said Ballard's injury will not expedite Salo's return.

"Sami has always been scheduled to play (Tuesday) and then a decision will be made on how he’s feeling and what he feels is the next step," he said.

Vancouver is already missing top defenceman Alex Edler, who had back surgery last week.

Ottawa lost centre Jesse Winchester in the first period following a collision with Canucks defenceman Andrew Alberts. Senators coach Cory Clouston said Winchester suffered a lower-body injury but he did not have any further update.

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