Habs hurting

SUN WIRE SERVICES

, Last Updated: 7:09 AM ET

The Montreal Canadiens were hurting their playoff hopes well enough on their own before the injury bug muscled in.

Goaltender Cristobal Huet missed a team function at a suburban rink yesterday while undergoing tests on a pulled left hamstring, while veterans Craig Rivet and Mike Johnson remained out of the public eye because of pneumonia and a flu respectively.

And winger Alex Kovalev, who missed the past two games because of a sore left elbow, said he may be out of action for two or three weeks.

Huet was injured while allowing Brian Rafalski's power-play goal during the Canadiens' fifth consecutive loss -- 5-2 in New Jersey on Wednesday night.

There was no word on how long he will be out but the Canadiens recalled goaltender Jaroslav Halak from Hamilton of the American Hockey League to back up David Aebischer. Halak, 16-11-0 with an AHL-leading 2.00 goals-against-average, is in the NHL for the first time.

Kovalev, who had not been seen by the media since it was announced on Monday that he had an "upper body" injury -- news that was greeted with almost universal skepticism.

"It was bothering me for a couple of months," Kovalev said. "I had to play with painkillers.

"I decided that because the pain was not going away, it's not worth it to force it, so I decided to take a rest."

IT'S A DOAN DEAL

If captain Shane Doan finishes his new $22.5-million US, five-year contract with the Phoenix Coyotes, he could be one of the few professional athletes to spend his entire career in the same organization.

It's a franchise, though, with scant success throughout his 12 years with the team.

After peppering team officials with questions at a long dinner Monday, Doan said he came away satisfied that the Coyotes were making the right moves, and that the last prime years of his career won't be wasted in a losing cause.

"I guess it's a little bit of trust because I would have left if I didn't think it was possible, I didn't think it was capable of turning it around and going in the right direction," he said yesterday.

"I truly want to win and I want to win sooner rather than later," Doan, 30, said, "because I know how short the window is and how quickly it's closing for me personally."

BRIEFLY

Coyotes forward Patrick Fischer will be out of the lineup for up to eight weeks following abdominal surgery ... The Vancouver Canucks recalled centre Tommi Santala from a conditioning assignment with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL.


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