Wings' captain should make full recovery

Updated: May 6, 2004, 2:47 PM ET
Associated Press

DETROIT -- Detroit captain Steve Yzerman is out indefinitely after undergoing 4 hours of surgery for a scratched cornea and broken bone just below his left eye.

Yzerman is expected to make a full recovery, the Red Wings said in a statement Sunday, adding that he will be unavailable to comment for a week.

Yzerman was hurt when he was hit in the face with a puck during Detroit's 1-0 loss to Calgary in Game 5 on Saturday night. The Red Wings fell behind 1-0 shortly after he was injured, and that was the only goal of the game. Yzerman needed help getting off the ice.

Calgary leads the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series 3-2 and can eliminate the top-seeded Red Wings at home Monday night.

Yzerman, who will turn 39 on May 9, experienced blurred vision in his eye, but that improved after the surgery on his orbital bone. He has a franchise-record 70 playoff goals and 181 points in his 20 seasons with the Red Wings. In regular-season games, he's the sixth-leading scorer in NHL history.

"He's been a tremendous leader and now it's up to us to step up," center Kris Draper said after practice Sunday. "Let's go out and play a great game for him because he's done so much for us."

The injury came after a shot by Red Wings defenseman Mathieu Schneider ricocheted off someone in front of the Calgary net and hit Yzerman squarely in the face as he stood to the left of the goal.

Yzerman, who doesn't wear a face shield, immediately dropped to the ice. He kicked his legs in pain as he was sprawled out.

After being down for a couple minutes, with the crowd watching in stunned silence, Yzerman was helped to the dressing room as a towel was held near his left eye. He didn't return to the game.

If Detroit fails to advance against Calgary, Yzerman may have played his last game because of the NHL's looming labor problems. A long lockout could lead to his retirement.

"I plan on playing next year, but the collective bargaining agreement will determine that," Yzerman said just before the playoffs started. "I'm just going to wait and see what happens. I'm prepared to wait a year."

Some thought the 10-time All-Star and 1998 Conn Smythe winner as playoff MVP would choose to end his storied career last year, but he said it wasn't an option he considered.

He missed the first 66 games of the 2002-03 season following a knee surgery -- usually reserved for retirees -- that involved sawing into the bone below his knee and using a wedge to realign the joint.

Detroit forward Darren McCarty said Sunday that he hopes the game wasn't Yzerman's last.

"He's been the strength and pillar of this hockey club for longer than I've been here. It'll be in the back of our minds," McCarty said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press