WASHINGTON -- Eric Lindros was loathe to call the latest news about his injured wrist a setback but there really aren't many better words that describe the situation.
Lindros, who at one time had looked upon either the game last night here against the Capitals or the one tonight at the Air Canada Centre versus the New Jersey Devils as his return to the lineup, instead was told yesterday to stop handling the puck as torn ligaments in his right wrist heal.
"Things have not healed nearly as well as I thought they would," a disappointed Lindros said. "It takes time, but the stability is not there. There is strength all around it (after getting the cast off last week), but the ligament has to heal."
Lindros, who is having trouble even taking a pass, visited a specialist in London last month and now will do so again to get a better idea of his status. For now, surgery remains on the backburner. If Lindros has to have an operation, he could be done for the season.
Does he regret not having surgery in the first place?
"You want to avoid it," Lindros said. "It takes two or three months of rehab (afterward). I am still optimistic we can get through this without surgery."
Lindros suffered the injury during a 3-2 win against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks on Dec. 12 and has missed all 22 games since. He has 11 goals and 11 assists in 30 games.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound centre said the possibility he does not return until after the Olympics "wouldn't be out of the question." That would put Lindros back in uniform on Feb. 28 against the Capitals in Toronto at the earliest, meaning he would have missed 2 1/2 months. Coach Pat Quinn confirmed yesterday that part of the Olympic break for NHL clubs is that injured players can't be tended to by team medical staff and aren't supposed to be in their teams' buildings.
There has not seemed to be a unified train of thought as to how long it would take Lindros to recover.
"Certain expectations were built into the statements by the medical people that he could start moving along and handling the puck," Quinn said. "He is still experiencing some real discomfort. My hindsight is the same as every else -- all we would want is that he move in the right direction. The decision was made by the medical people that the right direction was not to do anything and their hope was once they immobilized it, it would re-attach and heal up fine. He is not happy with how it feels."