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Panthers G Tomas Vokoun hurt when accidentally hit in head by stick of teammate

ATLANTA - Florida Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun was taken off the ice on a stretcher after being accidentally hit in the head by the stick of teammate Keith Ballard in the opening period of Monday night's game against the Atlanta Thrashers.

Vokoun had a cut on his ear but was alert when he was placed in an ambulance and taken to a local hospital, a Panthers spokesman said.

"Vokoun is going to be fine," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said after a 4-3 loss to the Thrashers.

"There was no internal ear damage, just a laceration," Panthers general manager Randy Sexton said. Vokoun will meet the team at the airport and fly home with them, he said.

It will be determined Tuesday whether Vokoun will be available for Florida's next game, at home against Colorado on Wednesday, Sexton said.

The injury occurred after Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk scored a goal at 8:54 of the first period, knocking in his own rebound. In apparent frustration, Ballard swung his stick at the net, inadvertently striking Vokoun in the head.

Vokoun was wheeled off the ice after about a 10-minute delay.

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller suggested Ballard was careless in dealing with his frustration.

"You'd like to think when guys show anger that they're cognizant of what's around them," Miller said following the Sabres' 3-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

But Miller doesn't think Ballard deserves a suspension from the NHL.

"It's within the team," he said. "It should be an internal matter. Clubs can discipline their own."

-With files from The Canadian Press

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