Jeff Carter didn’t think much of it.
He had taken much harder shots off the side of his foot than Clarke MacArthur’s blast in the first period of Sunday night’s loss to Atlanta.
Carter finished the game and didn’t seem to have an issue leaving the Wachovia Center, thanks to a pain killer.
But as the night wore on – and the pain killer wore off – Carter said his foot began to throb with pain.
“It was a harmless play,” Carter said. “I got home last night and it started getting worse and worse.”
An x-ray this morning confirmed Carter’s worst fear.
The Flyers’ leading scorer, with 33 goals and 60 points, will be out for 3-to-4 weeks with a non-displaced fracture on his left foot.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said the fracture, located on the arch, is painful and will require Carter to stay off his feet for a while.
That means Carter’s 286-game ironman streak, not quite rivaling Brett Favre’s, will end tomorrow night in Ottawa. It was the third longest streak in team history, behind John LeClair and Rod Brind’Amour. Coincidentally, the same exact injury – a fractured navicular bone – sidelined Brind’Amour and ended his 484-game streak in the 1998 preseason.
But the Flyers have bigger problems than Carter’s streak.
They’re in a three-way tie with Ottawa and Montreal – two teams that meet tonight – for 5th place in the East. They have also lost four out of their last five games and hold on to a playoff spot by just a four point cushion.
Getting Carter back for the playoffs, as is the current goal, won’t do much good if the Flyers don’t make the playoffs.
“No one is going to feel sorry for us,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “This happens to every team. Life has to go on. Life will go on.”
The good news for Carter is that the navicular bone is a non-weight bearing bone. Carter said once the bone is healed, it’s a matter of playing through the pain. He was hoping that it will take 2-to-3 weeks for that to happen, possibly bringing him back for the final game or two of the regular season.
But Holmgren was quick to caution a premature return, saying the Flyers won’t do anything to put Carter’s future in jeopardy.
Now, the Flyers – already on their way to Ottawa – will need to find a way to replace Carter in a hurry.
“He’s a big time goal scorer that we rely on,” Chris Pronger said. “I don’t think there’s anything we can do about it. It’s a part of the game that’s unfortunate. It happens to every team; there’s always injuries to key guys.
“It’s up to us to find a way to play without him.”