Darryl Sutter still has a difficult time talking about it -- how he took a deflected slap shot flush in the face, how his left eye was knocked from its socket and left hanging by a muscle and how he had to endure needles in the corner of the eye to drain the build-up of fluid.
"It gives me the creeps," the head coach of the Calgary Flames admitted. "Even when I hear a puck go off the [goal]post, I cringe. I just hope Steve Yzerman is okay."
Yesterday's injury news out of Detroit was decidedly glum for the Red Wings, who lost their captain and the fifth game of their playoffs to Calgary and now trail 3-2 in the Western Conference semi-final series.
Yzerman was struck in the face with a deflected puck in Saturday's 1-0 loss at the Joe Louis Arena. He left the ice in the second period and was taken to the Henry Ford Hospital, where he eventually underwent a 41/2-hour operation to repair multiple fractures to the orbital bone.
The 38-year-old veteran also suffered a scratched cornea, but is expected to regain vision in the eye. He will not, however, play again this postseason and there are concerns that his National Hockey League career may be over.
Sutter, who had his eye damaged and cheekbone fractured on Jan. 2, 1984 while playing for the Chicago Blackhawks, said he was worried for Yzerman the moment the puck hit him "and there was no blood. That's when you get scared [because the bleeding is likely internal]
"I think having surgery so quickly should help him," Sutter added. "I got hurt in Minnesota and didn't have my surgery until I got back to Chicago three weeks later."
Sutter recalled his ordeal for reporters and remembered how Glen Sonmor, the Minnesota North Stars' head coach who had lost an eye while playing in the American Hockey League, would visit every morning while Sutter lay in bed with both his eyes bandaged.
"He said, 'I know you won't see me but I think a one-eyed guy should come and see you,' " said Sutter, who had a piece of his cheekbone driven into his nose by the force of the puck and needed an artificial tear duct installed in his left eye. "I have different vision in each eye and when it's cold my eye waters. . . . But I was able to come back and play."
Sutter was only 25 when his world went temporarily dark and while he did play again his career lasted just three more years. Yzerman, who missed much of last season after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery, will turn 39 on Sunday. Whether he will attempt a comeback after experiencing such a scare is a matter for personal reflection.
In the short term, the Red Wings must win the sixth game of the series tonight at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
A victory in a seventh game in Detroit on Wednesday to avoid early elimination for the second year in a row. How Detroit would fare without its spiritual leader was a topic for discussion among many of the Flames.
"He's such a great captain," said his Calgary counterpart, Jarome Iginla.
"He's so smart defensively and we all know what he can do offensively. Any team not having him, it would hurt your team."
Iginla insisted the Flames won't be guilty of underestimating Detroit, which has also been without its most grizzled defenceman, Chris Chelios, a victim of a bum shoulder.
In their previous series, the Flames had a 3-2 lead in games against the Vancouver Canucks, but fell behind 4-0 after falling asleep in the first period. Iginla vowed he and his teammates had learned from that mistake.
"We're not going to get ahead of ourselves," he said. "We're going to concentrate on our start," he said. "They're the Presidents Trophy winner. They have more pressure on them. That's the way it is. As far as we're concerned, we enjoy this. We enjoy competing."
The Flames will have to make some lineup decisions for the sixth game. Ville Nieminen, who received a one-game suspension for charging Detroit goaltender Curtis Joseph at the end of the fourth game 4, is ready to return. In the fifth game, veteran Dave Lowry replaced Nieminen and turned in a solid effort, playing almost 13 minutes while recording three shots on goal.
Lowry's previous game was 31/2 months ago before he was put on the Flames' injured reserve list. He worked behind the Calgary bench as an assistant coach for the final six games of the regular season and the first playoff game against Vancouver.
While Sutter wouldn't say which player would be in and which would be out, he acknowledged that rugged winger Chris Simon was also getting closer to being ready for game duty. Simon suffered a knee injury against Vancouver and has not played against Detroit.