Schaef-itis KO's Sens winger

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

NASHVILLE, TENN. -- The medical term is conjunctivitis.

Us commoners know it as pinkeye.

The infected left winger? He jokingly calls it Schaef-itis.

Peter Schaefer's right peeper problem is really no laughing matter, however. It started, he says, between games in Long Island and Washington Dec. 5-6.

He's been playing through it since.

Last night, he finally succumbed to the itching, swelling and watering that stems from his tear duct, and had to watch (through one and a slit eyes) his Senator teammates play the Nashville Predators from the sidelines.

"It's not leaking puss as much," Schaefer said yesterday, heading back to the hotel while his teammates were hitting the Gaylord Entertainment Center ice for the morning skate. "But the rest of my body has really been fighting it.

"It's pretty hard on me right now, even laying down or watching TV is tough. It's hard not to be able to go out (on the ice) and do the things I want. I'm not practising, I'm not game-day skating ... it's hard to just go out and play games."

It's also difficult to sleep through the condition.

"It's either pours all night or the eye sticks shut," said Schaefer. "I get freaked out when I can't open my eye.

"My whole body is feeling weird. I can't tell whether I'm tired or not. My eye is always closed."

The news could get worse before it gets better.

Schaefer says he's now starting to feel an itching in his left eye, and he's heard of cases where the infection moves straight from one to the other. He's also heard that it's been known to hang around for 2-3 weeks.

Schaefer is a key player for the Senators.

He's one of the top penalty killers, their best along the boards and, when the team won eight of the nine games before he contracted Schaef-itis, he was one of their top point producers with 11.

Losing him for any length of time should almost be enough to bring a tear to your eye, Ottawa fan.

STARTS AND STOPS: Paul Kariya has grown into a casual fan of country music ("kind of hard not to, living here," he says) but adds: "You still won't find me going to any country music concerts." He thoroughly enjoys the fans at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, though, saying the Predators faithful have the energy and enthusiasm of a "college crowd." He's right. When each member of the opposition's starting six has his name announced on the P.A. system here, the fans respond by shouting: "Sucks!" When the coach, in this case Bryan Murray, was introduced, the fans yelled: "He sucks too!" ... In taunting the Senators goalie after each of the goals he gave up last night, the crowd followed three chants of "(Ray) Emery" with "It's all your fault." In truth, a couple of Senators defencemen deserved blame as well ... Martin Gerber was steaming and ignoring apology attempts after Serge Payer pinged him in the mask with a shot during the morning skate. While Gerber was in a crouch, Payer said later: "I've got to keep those shots down." And maybe it was a good thing, if a ticked-off Gerber becomes the Gerber he was last year.

BETWEEN PERIODS: Nashville coach Barry Trotz set an NHL record last night for most games coached (605) with a franchise from its inception. The previous record was held by Lester B. Patrick (1926-39) with the New York Rangers. "I remember the first year, I was just hoping to get through 82 games," Trotz said yesterday morning. "Going 605 or whatever seems strange." Miraculous, really, considering how teams, especially new ones, generally think their coaches go from being smart to stupid much quicker than that ... As a 17-year-old defenceman with the Regina Pats, Trotz had Murray as his coach. Murray said Trotz was a smart player who moved the puck quickly. "We brought him to Washington," Murray said, with a smile, referring to when he was bench boss of the Capitals. "And we suggested to Barry he should be a coach." ... Trotz noted how he could have been Chris Chelios' teammate in Moose Jaw, but also how by going to Regina he wound up as Al MacInnis' roommate as a rookie. "Those guys look like they could still play," said Trotz, "and I look like I haven't for 20 years."

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM...: The strip of country bars on Broadway St. -- which grazes the Gaylord Entertainment Center -- is simply outstanding. Especially Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. All that the area is missing is a late-night snack shop. Gotta tell ya boss, if I wasn't typin' about sports for a livin', I'd be settin' up a hot dog stand down here and becomin' a damn millionaire ... Brian McGrattan was back in the lineup after injuring his hand knocking Washington D John Erskine around, then re-injuring it in a scrap with Columbus' Jody Shelley ... Don't care what Kariya says. A chance to see either John Stone and his Trailer Park Allstars or Melanie Torres again, and I'm goin' to the damn concert.


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