That hurts

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

Calgary Hitmen blueliner Darryl Yacboski is pulling the pin on the 2005-06 season.

Make no mistake: The 20-year-old wants to play his final year of junior but his injured left shoulder just won't allow it.

After having surgery in April to repair a torn labrum, Yacboski re-injured the same shoulder in Calgary's home-opener against Red Deer -- Game 2 of the campaign -- throwing it out on a body check.

Reached at home in Langley, B.C., yesterday, the rugged rearguard said he is disappointed.

"It's frustrating having an injury just two games in and you start to wonder why or if it had something to do with the previous one," said Yacboski, adding he'll get an MRI in two weeks to determine the nature of the injury.

"It's one of the toughest decisions I've ever made in my life. It's one that any hockey player doesn't want to make. It's not what I wanted to do to but it's the smart thing based on my shoulder."

Yacboski -- drafted by Colorado in 2003 but currently an NHL free agent -- said the previous surgery was successful and the shoulder felt as good as it could have, all things considered.

"I don't know if it was a freak thing or it was just weakened, but as far as the rehab went, everything was done properly," he said.

The veteran will probably have to undergo more surgery and isn't sure if he'll ever play the game he loves again.

"It's going to take a long time to heal my shoulder and that's the first order of business," said Yacboski, who broke into the WHL with the Regina Pats in 2001 and played in 196 games, getting 26 points and 316 penalty minutes.

"I've got to have a healthy shoulder, not only for hockey, but later in life and if I keep bashing it up, who knows what it'll be like later on?

"Health is the first thing, then I'll take a look at my options and see if I can make it in hockey or take the schooling and pursue my life."

Naturally losing a 6-ft. 3-in., 225-lb., tough-as-nails defenceman hurts the Hitmen because solid, veteran D-men are hard to come by these days.

Calgary captain Brett Carson said the team will miss Yacboski.

"It's a big loss. He was not only a great player for us on the ice, he was a great leader in the dressing room and probably would have worn the 'C' this year," said Carson, now the team's only 20-year-old defenceman.

But if there's one thing Calgary boasts in spades, it's defencemen, so if there's a silver lining, there are plenty of talented players waiting to step up and show what they can do.

"I think we have great group of guys still and a lot of depth on defence," Carson said.

That means fans can expect to see more of 16-year-olds Justin Falk and Alex Plante on the blueline the rest of the way.

HIT PARADE: The Hitmen are on a five-day break from game action and don't return to the ice until Saturday when they host the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the 'Dome, beginning a stretch that sees them play six games in nine days ... F Darryl Moscaluk (concussion) and F Isaac Reid (charley horse) didn't practise yesterday ... Hitmen GM/head coach Kelly Kisio is in B.C., possibly on a scouting trip.


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