Big trouble for big Mats

Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin will be out two to six weeks with and eye injury, depending on if...

Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin will be out two to six weeks with and eye injury, depending on if surgery is needed. (Toronto Sun/Greg Henkenhaf)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

An effective ad that runs on Leafs TV zooms in tight on the blue eye of captain Mats Sundin in the heat of action, the centrepiece of the hockey team.

Today, Sundin's eye, specifically the fractured left lower orbital bone, is the focus of deep concern throughout Leaf Nation. Specialists and club doctors continue to monitor Sundin after Wednesday night's mishap, trying to wait for swelling to recede and possibly for blood to drain from the eye socket before determining if surgery will be necessary.

General manager John Ferguson can only say Sundin is out indefinitely, but usual projections of anywhere from two to six weeks with such an injury will depend on whether an operation is needed.

"His eye is healing, his vision is stable," Ferguson said of the injury that happened just seven minutes into the 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators. "He's under expert care."

After yesterday's series of checkups, Sundin was at home yesterday. He called his parents in Sweden late Wednesday night to assure them his sight was not damaged.

Dr. Peter Rubin of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston has treated several Bruins and Red Sox players with similar injuries.

"It's not an uncommon injury in pro athletes, and if there's no severe displacement, then surgery is not required," Rubin said.

"But what you have to assess is the risk of future displacement. You can come back earlier than expected, but it would have to be with adequate protection, certainly a visor. "

Because most of the internal orbit is a thin and weak structure to begin with, it's frequently difficult to reduce and stabilize the area without packing it, either with the patient's own bone and cartilage or a material such as silicone, teflon or titanium.

Ferguson wasn't going to jump to conclusions about the duration of Sundin's absence and any roster moves until he gets a full report.

With the Marlies debuting tonight in Rochester, he let hot prospect Kyle Wellwood leave with the team on the bus, but might have to make a move for tomorrow's game here against the Montreal Canadiens.

The situation is complicated by right winger Jeff O'Neill's sore shoulder, which kept him out of practice. That put coach Pat Quinn at the minimum 12 forwards.

"(O'Neill) went into the net a little bit uncomfortably," Ferguson said. "We'll see (today) how he feels at practice."

Ferguson is mindful that anyone he calls up now will have their salary count against the $39-million US cap, along with Sundin's $6.84 million. A long-term injury exception applies after 10 games missed or 24 days, after which time Sundin's salary, and that of his replacement, are reduced to the point the Leafs get back under the cap.

Eric Lindros took Sundin's place between Alexei Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov yesterday.

"The beauty of the depth we have at centre (Sundin, Lindros and Jason Allison) is that we can pick up the slack," Ferguson said.

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THE DEAL WITH ... SUNDIN'S EYE

A look at the eye injury suffered by Mats Sundin:

- INJURY: Suffered a fractured orbital bone in his left eye socket.

- PROGNOSIS: Will be out from two to six weeks.

- WHAT'S NEXT? Doctors will wait for swelling to recede before determining if surgery will be necessary.


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