December 8, 2013

Happy to be seeing, and playing

Shea Weber of Nashville is pleased to have a second chance after taking a puck off his face on Nov. 28.

The Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber says he feels lucky to be skating again a week after taking a puck to the face that left him unable to see much at all until the next morning.

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Defenseman Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators crumples to the ice after a puck hit his face near the right eye during a Nov. 28 game against the Edmonton Oilers. Weber initially feared for his sight but returned to the ice for a practice session with the Predators on Friday.

Photos by The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

Shea Weber has previously worn a visor only when necessary, but is now wearing one to avoid a similar injury. Predators Coach Barry Trotz feels visors will likely be mandatory in the NHL in a few years.

“Definitely very thankful and lucky that it wasn’t worse,” Weber said. “It could have been a lot worse and got a second chance here, and obviously hopefully it doesn’t happen again.”

Weber took a puck near his right eye on Nov. 28 in a 3-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. He dropped to the ice and then skated off straight to the locker room. He practiced Friday for the first time and also wore a visor to protect his eyes after an injury that had him worried because of the blood affecting his vision.

“You can’t see anything out of it and you wonder if it’s long term,” Weber said. “I mean you’re uncertain, so you just have to wait and listen to what the doctor says and the guys that … have dealt with these things before you make any assessment. I mean it’s tough but you don’t want to jump to any conclusion.”

As a veteran, Weber has been among those players allowed to play without a visor. He has finished second twice in voting for the Norris Trophy given to the NHL’s best defenseman, and he won a gold medal with Canada in the 2010 Olympics.

Weber spent the first four or five days after the injury not allowed to leave the couch to allow his eye time to heal. He was able to see more the second day, with vision returning gradually.

Now Weber is getting used to wearing a visor he previously had worn only in tournaments like the Olympics.

So will he wear one permanently?

“We’ll see how it goes,” Weber said.

“I mean for right now I definitely don’t want to take any second chances and don’t want to get hit again. So hopefully I can just get used to it and it’s not going to be an issue and I can wear it going forward.”

The Predators made a serious investment in the defenseman they drafted 49th overall in 2003 in July 2012 when they matched a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet by Philadelphia. He’s also is a two-time All Star.

Coach Barry Trotz predicted that wearing visors probably will be mandatory in the NHL in a couple of years anyway, and pointed out Weber will need it in the 2014 Olympics. Trotz said he thinks Weber realizes he’s gotten a second chance after an injury that could have been disastrous.

“He was able to avoid that, and obviously with that he’s taken the right precautions by putting on the shield and having a very productive career and livelihood for a long, long time,” Trotz said.

“That’s our goal with him and for him, and that’s what he wants.”

The Predators certainly need their captain back.

Goalie Pekka Rinne has been out since needing arthroscopic surgery Oct. 24 to clean out a bacterial infection, and the Predators hope to pick up his activity from his rehab on Dec. 20. No date, however, has been set for his return.

Weber has missed three games and was their leading goal scorer when he was hurt. With seven goals, he’s tied with Erik Karlsson of Ottawa, Torey Krug of Boston and Michael Stone of Phoenix for most by defensemen. Nashville has lost three straight without him, and is 7-0 when Weber scores this season.

“Obviously a tough stretch here and not playing the way we should be,” Weber said.

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