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Heatley could miss six weeks after facial surgery

BERN, Switzerland -- Atlanta Thrashers star Dany Heatley was hit in the left eye with a puck during a Swiss league game and could be sidelined six weeks after facial surgery.

Heatley was diagnosed Sunday with severe bruising and internal bleeding in the eye, his club said on its Web site. He will be operated on in a few days for a broken orbital bone below the eye. Heatley will stay in the hospital for at least a week, the team added.

Club doctor Martin Schaer was confident Heatley would regain full vision in the eye.

Thrashers general manager Don Waddell gave a more guarded assessment but also said he didn't think the injury was permanent.

"No, because all indications are that everything else is intact," Waddell said. "Until they get in and get the blood cleared and swelling cleared, they don't know, but the first indication is there's no eye damage."

Heatley signed to play with SC Bern during the NHL lockout, which shows no signs of being settled. Assuming his rehabilitation goes according to plan, he probably wouldn't miss any playing time with the Thrashers.

"The surgery is, the way I read it and what I've heard, is probably six weeks (to recover)," Waddell said. "So at this point I don't think it would be a factor."

Heatley was injured Saturday night after SC Bern teammate Daniel Briere hit him in the eye with the puck in the second period. All players in the Swiss league are required to wear visors.

Heatley, who joined the Swiss club last month, scored Bern's lone goal in its 2-1 loss to Geneva-Servette. In 10 games with the Swiss club, Heatley has seven goals and eight assists and is tied for second on the team in scoring, four points behind Briere.

Heatley still faces six charges, including vehicular homicide, in connection with the 2003 crash that resulted in the death of friend and teammate Dan Snyder.

He has a Nov. 29 court date in Atlanta but may not have to be there in person. Heatley faces a maximum of 20 years in jail and fines totaling $5,000 if convicted on all six counts.

Heatley, the NHL rookie of the year in 2002, missed the first 51 games of last season while recuperating from a broken jaw and two torn knee ligaments sustained in the car accident. He finished with 13 goals and 12 assists in 31 games with the Thrashers. The right winger sat out only five games in his first two seasons because of injury.

His move to Bern reunited Heatley with Briere, a center with the Buffalo Sabres. They played on the same line at the 2003 and '04 world championships, leading Canada to a gold medal in both tournaments.

Heatley's parents, Murray and Karin, were traveling to Switzerland to be with their son. Heatley's agent, Stacey McAlpine, said he did not expect to have any update on the surgery until Tuesday or Wednesday.

"We are certainly concerned about his long-term health," McAlpine said. "The medical staff over at the Bern hospital have given us some reasons to be positive. It's too early to tell."

During the lockout, nearly one-third of NHL players are playing in European leagues. One of the risks is that they can get injured and won't be able to play when the NHL resumes play.

Heatley is a restricted free agent, meaning the Thrashers have his rights but his contract lapsed at the end of last season.

"He's got disability insurance coverage," McAlpine said, without revealing the amount. "If a player was to suffer a career-ending injury, the insurance policy would be implemented. ... We've got a policy in place that we feel would provide him with
some protection."