The toughest call

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Mach Nine has been grounded, and it's anybody's guess when he'll return.

Senators winger Martin Havlat was advised yesterday to have surgery to repair a dislocated right shoulder that includes a fracture, meaning he'll be out of action at least four months -- and possibly more.

After meeting with Dr. Anthony Miniaci -- head of the sports staff at the Cleveland Clinic and a renowned shoulder specialist -- Havlat will undergo the procedure in the next 10 days. There is a chance he could return in time for the Stanley Cup playoffs, but only if the recovery and rehabilitation goes well.

"This wasn't really my decision. I am following the recommendations of Dr. Miniaci," said Havlat in a conference call last night. "I will have the surgery fairly soon and then I will meet with him in three months to see how to proceed.

"This is tough. You want to be part of the team and you want to be playing. Hopefully, if I'm able to get back and it comes back well, there's a good chance I'll be able to play in the playoffs."

Senators GM John Muckler admitted winning the Stanley Cup just got tougher.

"You never replace a player like Martin Havlat," said Muckler. "He's one of the most talented players on our team and we were really looking for him to have a breakout year. He's struggled with injuries but hopefully, he'll be back and ready for the playoffs.

Miniaci, a Canadian who graduated from the University of Western Ontario, used to be the team doctor for the Toronto Blue Jays. He reviewed Havlat's MRI and then requested the one-on-one meeting to discuss the options.

"These are always tough decisions for players to make and I would think in Marty's case, this would probably be particularly difficult. He's such a talented, young player," said Senators coach Bryan Murray.

"I'm sure (Havlat) wanted to come in this year, have a big year, get some outrageous stats and then talk about what he had to talk about (for a new contract) in the summer. I know most of all, he wanted to be part of a winning team. That's why this is tough.

"I know what's happened for him right now is very disappointing. These are the toughest decisions for an athlete to make, but we want what's best for (Havlat)."

The players know this isn't easy for the dynamic Havlat, who missed five games earlier this year when he was suspended for kicking Boston's Hal Gill. Havlat had nine goals and five assists in 16 games.

'RIGHT' DECISION

"I don't know the whole situation with (Havlat) and what direction this is going in exactly, but I know what it's like to be in that position and I feel for (Havlat), but he has to do what is right for him," said Senators centre Bryan Smolinski.

"He's a young player with a long career ahead of him and you've got to make sure that with whatever decision you make, everything is going to be okay. The best thing for him is to get the shoulder fixed up and then get back to playing as soon as he can. I know it's frustrating and I know it's tough for him."

There is no question Havlat would like to be part of the run for the Cup.

"You feel for a guy like that being in that situation," said Senators winger Chris Neil. "You look at him and he's got a lot of talent, a lot of skill and a lot of speed. He loves the game. He wants to be out there."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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