WASHINGTON -- The Dion Phaneuf injury is a harsh reminder that the fastest sport in the world can also be the most dangerous.
With the speed and body contact of hockey, players are often in the air or on their backs with sharp steel bevelled blades going in unpredictable directions.
Phaneuf caught the brunt of one Tuesday night at the ACC from Ottawa's Peter Regin, an accidental play that could have easily been a season-ending injury.
Toronto general manager Brian Burke said Wednesday night that the deep cut actually sliced a tiny piece of the Maple Leafs captain's medial collateral ligament. A couple of stitches fixed that, but it's the major incision that will keep Phaneuf out four to six weeks.
"There's a lot of (injury) detail there that we don't generally go into, but it was a close call," Burke said outside the team's Verizon Center dressing room before the game against the Capitals. "It could have been a lot worse."
Fellow defencemen Luke Schenn and Mike Komisarek say the risk of getting cut by blades goes with the territory, but it's not something they can dwell on in the heat of a game.
"No question that sometimes things get dangerous out there," Schenn said. "You can go hard into the boards and get injured that way or sometimes it's a little thing where a skate cuts you. Sometimes you can't control it, it's bad luck. Knock on wood, it hasn't (happened to him).
"Even in practice, there's close calls. You get knocked down and someone's skate comes up right beside you and you go, 'Holy cow, did that just happen?' You don't say it's lucky (for Phaneuf), but we've seen worse. If you don't have protection everywhere, things like that can happen."
There has been a push on in the NHL for kevlar-type hockey socks, that Komisarek says can protect the Achilles tendon if the top of the skate boot is ever penetrated. But Burke pointed out the sock can only go up the leg so far.
"I don't know how you wear a sock on your thigh," Burke said. "This (cut) was above the knee. I know some of our players wear them, but I don't know about Dion.
"We do encourage our players to wear them. But the reaction from the guys who tried them is that they were uncomfortably warm.
"It was just a fluke thing that is going to happen again and it happened to our guy.
"We've texted each other. He seems like he's in good spirits, but he's disappointed. We're not unique here. Every team has injuries and you have to battle through them."
Phaneuf has never had a long-term injury such as this, having missed six games in total since joining the NHL in 2005-06, some of those to play in the world junior tournament.
"Dion is a big piece of our team and a big piece of our defence," Komisarek said. "He will be missed, but we're happy he's only gone a month instead of an entire season."