Bruins leading scorer Joe Thornton, who suffered a fractured right cheekbone in a fight with Eric Lindros of the New York Rangers Monday, will have surgery today to stabilize the cheekbone, and will miss at least tonight's game at the FleetCenter against the Buffalo Sabres. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Michael Yaremchuk at Massachusetts General Hospital.
"Joe will have this procedure [this] morning and we expect that he will be released from the hospital later in the day," said general manager Mike O'Connell in a statement released early last night. "He will miss [tonight's] game vs. the Sabres but will be on a day-to-day status after that."
Thornton practiced at the Fleet yesterday wearing a full cage attached to his helmet to protect the injury. Thornton missed Tuesday's rematch with the Rangers, the first game he had not played this season. The Bruins won both games against New York, and have taken seven of their last eight.
"He looked pretty good," said coach Mike Sullivan after practice, before it was known surgery would be necessary. "His vision is fine, and his breathing is fine. The face protection will be an adjustment for him. After he skates with it a few times, he'll adjust. Whenever you're not used to a piece of equipment, it's an adjustment. He'll get used to it in practice."
Sullivan said he had nothing further to add after it was learned the center would have surgery.
Thornton, who has 44 points (11 goals, 33 assists), skated before the announced 12 p.m. start of the optional practice, which drew a dozen players, and was in the trainer's room, which is off limits to the media, when the press was admitted to the locker room. Thornton did not come out, and after a 90-minute wait, it was announced he had left the building. It was speculated at the time that Jumbo Joe did not wish to be photographed with an ugly black eye.
Thornton squared off with Lindros in the second period of a chippy game with the Rangers. After a faceoff in the Rangers' zone, Lindros cross-checked Thornton in the head area and the behemoths traded punches. As they grappled to find punching room, Lindros (6 feet 5 inches, 237 pounds) wrestled Thornton (6-4, 223) into a vulnerable position, then dropped him with a powerful right hand. Thornton left the game, holding his jersey to his bloody left cheek, and was accompanied by trainer Scott Waugh.
Lindros was one of the most feared fighters in the league in the early '90s, before seven concussions altered his physical playing style. Thornton doesn't fight much, but he has a short fuse, his rage often responding to defensive tactics to slow him down. Lindros received a five-minute major for fighting, as did Thornton.
The Bruins played rough shortly after the contretemps. Doug Doull was thrown out of the game for a heavy hit on Petr Nedved, and Dan McGillis was assessed a match penalty for intent to injure Darius Kasparaitis.
Doull received a five-minute major for charging, a game misconduct, and subsequently, a one-game suspension. He served the suspension Tuesday, when the Bruins played the Rangers in a rematch at Madison Square Garden.