When Alex Burrows was on the ice in pain following a knee-on-knee hit from Italy's Joachim Ramoser, it didn't look good. When he needed to lean on Brayden Schenn and Nathan MacKinnon to get off the ice, it was all too easy to fear the worst.
A year after Team Canada lost Eric Staal to a sprained medial collateral ligament at the world hockey championship, it was something of a relief that Burrows did not suffer a knee injury.
In announcing a one-game suspension for Ramoser, the International Ice Hockey Federation revealed the Canadian medical staff's diagnosis of a charley horse. Coach Dave Tippett said Saturday that Burrows was a game-time decision for Sunday's showdown with Sweden.
"A little better today," Tippett said after an optional practice at Chizhovka-Arena. "(Burrows) took steps forwards overnight, and doctors and trainers will work on him today and hopefully we can get him close tomorrow."
Asked if he was confident the Vancouver Canucks forward would be able to play, Tippett responded: "We'll see. Let's see where it is tomorrow, but certainly better than last night."
Burrows did not return after the scary collision with 56 seconds left in the first period that Tippett and Italian coach Tom Pokel agreed was not intentional. The IIHF disciplinary panel agreed but added that Ramoser "endangered the safety of Burrows."
"He did initiate contact illegally with his knee and must take responsibility for causing the injury to Burrows," the IIHF said in a statement.
Told of Ramoser's suspension Saturday, Tippett called it a tough play.
"It's a knee-to-knee kind of hit," he said. "I don't think the kid meant to do it. Just when you miss by a little bit, those things happen."
Burrows did not skate Saturday, but he was far from alone. Only four skaters — defenceman Morgan Rielly and forwards Jonathan Huberdeau, Mark Scheifele and Sean Monahan — took the ice along with goaltenders Ben Scrivens, James Reimer and Justin Peters.
It was not clear which goaltender would start against Sweden in Canada's second-to-last preliminary game that very likely will determine first place in Group A. Reimer has a 2.27 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in two starts, while Scrivens has a 1.00 and .963.
Sweden is Canada's biggest test before the quarter-final. Two players are back from the silver-medal-winning Sochi Olympic team — forwards Gustav Nyquist of the Detroit Red Wings and Jimmie Ericsson.
Goaltender Anders Nilsson of the New York Islanders has been phenomenal for Sweden, which has gotten seven points from former NHL forward Joakim Lindstrom.
"Obviously we're expecting a high-paced game, and they've got some good, skilled players," said Cody Hodgson, who leads Canada with seven points and is tied for the tournament lead with six goals.
Hodgson is thriving in part because he's healthy, and while some teammates are banged-up, Tippett thinks they'll be OK. Defenceman Braydon Coburn lost a few teeth in Friday's victory over Italy, and Troy Brouwer and Kevin Bieska also had mouth injuries.
Defenceman Jason Garrison, who missed the game against Italy with illness, was doing better Saturday, according to Tippett. The flu bug has gone through some other teams in Minsk, but beyond Garrison it hadn't done the same to Canada.
"Knock on wood it seems to be all right today," Tippett said.
Even more fortunate for Canada is that Burrows seems to be OK.
"It was a tough-looking hit, but he's been around a while," Tippett said. "He knows when he thinks he can get up and moving, and it was good to see him today a lot better than last night."