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Vancouver Canucks defenceman Sami Salo (6), of Finland, is congratulated by centre Manny Malhotra, right, after scoring against the San Jose Sharks in the first period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, March 10, 2011.

Paul Sakuma

Manny Malhotra's surgery Wednesday evening was to reduce swelling and sap blood from his left eye.

Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said the NHL team did not know whether Malhotra's vision could be permanently impaired, and is playing a waiting game that would last between hours and "three or four days" before hearing more about his condition. The Canucks forward was struck by a deflected puck in the second period of a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday, and was taken to hospital for surgery.

Malhotra was scheduled for tests Thursday, but Gillis said his swelling may need to subside, and that multiple tests may be needed, before conclusions are drawn. The Canucks recalled winger Victor Oreskovich from the American Hockey League's Manitoba Moose on an emergency basis, which does not count against their recall limit.

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NHL teams are allowed four recalls after the trade deadline and before the end of their minor league team's season (including playoffs). The Canucks have used one.

Gillis said that the choice of Oreskovich was "not a judgment on Cody [Hodgson]whatsoever." The organization's top prospect is a natural centre, and the Canucks are carrying only three centremen with Malhotra out of the lineup. Hodgson was bypassed, but not because the Canucks lack sufficient salary-cap space.

Hodgson and the Moose are in first-place of the AHL's North Division. They are likely to make the playoffs and compete into mid-April, when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin. Gillis said he did not want to be caught in a predicament where he was out of recalls in the playoffs.

"We have to be very careful," he said. "We may run into a problem down the road."

Gillis said that trade deadline acquisitions Maxim Lapierre and Chris Higgins will be asked to cover Malhotra's duties, which include winning face-offs and penalty-killing. Malhotra is the second-best face-off man in the NHL, and averages two minutes and 45 seconds of short-handed ice-time per game, most among Canucks forwards.

Lapierre, a centre, is likely to replace Malhotra in the middle of the third line, while he and Higgins will man penalty-killing units alongside Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows. Tanner Glass is Vancouver's only other forward who logs significant shorthanded time, but he is out with upper-body soreness until next week.

Both Glass and defenceman Kevin Bieksa, sidelined by a foot fracture since Feb. 16, are expected to return for a March 23 game against the Detroit Red Wings. The Canucks led the Red Wings by 11 points for first-place in Western Conference heading into Thursday games.

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