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Associated Press
10/14/2006 10:54:37 PM

PITTSBURGH (AP) - 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.

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 defenceless.

"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.

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