The banged-up Detroit Red Wings have lost defenceman Niklas Kronwall for at least a month with a sprained ligament in his left knee.
The team announced Sunday that Kronwall will be out four to eight weeks after being tripped by Montreal Canadiens tough guy Georges Laraque midway through the first period of Saturday's 3-2 shootout win.
"There is no ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] damage and that's good news," said Detroit general manager Ken Holland. Kronwall had his left knee surgically repaired in 2005.
"They are saying it's between a Grade 2 and a Grade 3 sprain; Grade 3 being the most severe," said Holland.
Laraque threw his left knee out and had a leg-on-leg, open-ice collision with Kronwall, the Red Wings' top-scoring defenceman this season with 13 points in 21 games.
Laraque said it was an accident, while Detroit players and management called it a dirty play.
"Was it knee to knee? Yes. Was it a dirty hit? Yes, I thought it was a dirty play," Holland said after the game. "I have no comment on the referees because I have the luxury to look at it in slow motion. But it was knee to knee and it was a dirty play, and it's a play we don't want in hockey."
On Sunday, Holland said the NHL is investigating the hit. A hearing is scheduled for Monday morning with league disciplinarian Colin Campbell.
"The league called me [Saturday night]. Obviously, they are looking into it," said Holland. "They told me they saw the hit and they requested that I let them know the extent of Nik's injury."
Derek Meech, who has appeared in five of Detroit's 21 games this season, will take Kronwall's spot in the lineup. The 25-year-old Winnipeg native has a minus-2 rating.
"Meech has been around and he knows the system," said Holland of Meech, a fourth-year Red Wing. "He's been chomping at the bit and he's ready to go."
Detroit is also without forwards Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula and Jason Williams because of long-term injuries.