PITTSBURGH - Boston Bruins defenceman Aaron Ward injured his neck early in the second period against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night and was in stable condition in a hospital.
It's the second time this week an NHL player has required such treatment for a neck injury. Ward was not bleeding when he left the ice and did not leave on a stretcher, but coach Claude Julien said following Boston's 2-1 win that Ward coughed up some blood before leaving the ice.
The 35-year-old Ward was skating toward Penguins defenceman Sergei Gonchar near the end boards when Gonchar got either his forearm or his stick up and accidentally struck Ward in the neck.
"I got there and he was making a choking sound, holding his throat and gasping for air," teammate Zdeno Chara said.
The Bruins were told Ward wasn't seriously hurt, but that he should remain in the hospital for at least 24 hours as a precaution. The team did not disclose the exact nature of Ward's injury.
"They just want to play it safe and keep him here for 24 hours before they release him," Julien said. "All I know is that he was coughing up some blood and that's why they sent him to the hospital and they have him under observation, to make sure everything is under control."
Ward's neck injury came only three days after Florida right wing Richard Zednik's neck was accidentally cut by teammate Olli Jokinen's skate, cutting his carotid artery and stopping close to his jugular vein. He lost a significant amount of blood, but is recovering quickly and was upgraded to good condition in a Buffalo hospital Wednesday.
Because Ward didn't stay on the ice long after getting hurt, the 16,982 spectators in Mellon Arena did not appear to realize he was hurt badly enough to require hospitalization.
"Yeah, obviously (it scares you)," Gonchar said. "There's so many injuries (lately). Out sport is hard enough and tough enough you don't want to get any extra ones."
No penalty was called on the play, which occurred about four minutes into the second period.
"I just remember me joining the rush and shooting the puck and he was coming to me and I (was trying to) protect myself and trying to go back into my position, and that's why I didn't even see exactly what happened," Gonchar said. "I was so focused going back. I was asking the guys about him and I'm happy that it looks like it's fine with him."
Ward is a three-time Stanley Cup winner, twice with the Detroit Red Wings and again with Carolina in 2006, when he scored the first goal of the Hurricanes' cup-clinching Game 7 victory against Edmonton.
This season, Ward has four goals and five assists in 43 games, missing 13 games with a concussion, ankle and foot injuries.
Ward was the No. 5 overall pick by Winnipeg, now the Phoenix Coyotes, in the 1991 draft. He has 39 goals and 85 assists for 124 points in 676 career games with the Red Wings, Hurricanes, Rangers and Bruins. He was traded by New York to Boston a year ago this month for defenceman Paul Mara.