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Canes forward Letowski knocked out, carried off ice

PITTSBURGH -- Carolina Hurricanes forward Trevor Letowski
was carried off the ice on a stretcher after being knocked
unconscious by a hit from Pittsburgh's Colby Armstrong in the first
period Saturday night, but returned to the team later that night.

Trevor Letowski Letowski

Letowski needed stitches to close a cut on his forehead and was
diagnosed with a concussion at a nearby hospital. Coach Peter
Laviolette said he would be released in time to fly with the team
to Tampa for a game Monday night.

"He has a concussion, stitches -- he got his bell rung,"
Laviolette said.

Letowski, a healthy scratch for Carolina's game Friday night
against Atlanta, was skating up ice from the Hurricanes' end when
he made a drop pass to teammate Eric Belanger between the circles.
Moments after making the pass, and skating with his head turned in
the opposite direction, Letowski was checked hard by Armstrong.

Armstrong's shoulder clipped Letowski in the head, causing
Letowski to drop limply to the ice. The hit appeared to be clean
and no penalty was called, but Laviolette complained his player was
defenseless.

"It was a tough hit, it was unfortunate," Laviolette said.
"You can make argument it was a little bit late. He had passed the
puck, it was gone, one second, two seconds, and Trevor didn't see
it coming."

Letowski landed face down on the ice at the top of the slot and
lay motionless for several minutes. After he was lifted onto a
backboard and then a stretcher, Letowski had his neck placed in a
brace.

Armstrong defended his hit, but was visibly shaken by the
injury.

"I don't think I'm a dirty player," Armstrong said. "I play
hard. He moved it [the puck] and I hit him. I was finishing my hit
on him. But you don't want that to happen to anybody. It's scary to
me. ... It did bother me."

In the second period, Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was
lifted with Carolina up 3-0 after he was cut near an eyebrow during
a scramble along the side of the net. After the Hurricanes finished
up the 5-1 victory, he said his injury wasn't serious. Fleury was
replaced by backup Jocelyn Thibault -- the first time Thibault has
played since having hip surgery following a Jan. 6 game against
Atlanta.

Letowski's injury was the second by a Hurricanes forward in as
many games in Pittsburgh in seven months. Star left wing Erik Cole
broke his neck while being slammed into the boards by Pittsburgh
defenseman Brooks Orpik in a March 4 game. Cole missed the rest of
the season and did not return to the Stanley Cup champion
Hurricanes until Games 6 and 7 of the finals against Edmonton.

Orpik drew a 5-minute boarding penalty and was ejected for the
hit on Cole and was suspended for three games.

Cole played Saturday night, going scoreless in 18 minutes, 37
seconds. Orpik has been out this season because of a broken hand.

The 29-year-old Letowski is playing in his eighth NHL season
after signing with Carolina in July. He had 73 goals and 102
assists in 484 games, playing previously for Phoenix, Vancouver and
Columbus. He had 10 goals and 18 assists last season with Columbus.