Flames’ Nakladal ‘dodged a big bullet’ by avoiding serious eye injury following high stick

Flames defenseman Jakub Nakaldal’s eye is full of blood, but that’s about the extent of his injury following an accidental high stick that caught the blueliner in the eye. Nakladal was held out of action Monday, but his return hasn’t been ruled out for later this week.

Flames first-year defenseman Jakub Nakladal nearly suffered one of the worst injuries imaginable this past weekend when he caught a high stick in the eye.

During Calgary’s contest against Pittsburgh Saturday, Nakladal, 28, was retreating into the Flames’ zone to recover a puck that had been dumped in when he became tangled with the Penguins’ Tom Kuhnhackl. As they battled towards the loose puck, Kuhnhackl’s stick rode up under Nakladal’s visor and made contact with the blueliner’s eye, causing him to drop to the ice clutching his face.

There was immediate concern that Nakladal had suffered an injury similar to that of Bryan Berard, who in 2000 caught an errant stick from Marian Hossa that resulted in a detached retina among other things. Nakladal was escorted off ice by the Flames training staff and returned to the dressing room where he underwent a series of tests. Thankfully, all the news has been positive.

“I was pretty scared because you never know what can happen, especially if you get a hit to your eye,” Nakladal told’s Torie Peterson. “But [thankfully], it was not too bad and now I feel pretty good…I’m pretty happy.”

Nakladal said he has seen similar incidents before, including an injury that put a friend out for an entire season. Nakladal said when the stick first made contact with his eye, he was concerned about how bad his own injury would be, but said he started to feel better several minutes after the accidental high stick. Flames coach Bob Hartley said looking at Nakladal’s right eye, which is blood red instead of the usual white, is a scary reminder of what could have happened.

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“We dodged a big bullet on that one,” Hartley told Peterson. “You look at his eye and there’s no damage to his eyesight. We were very fortunate on that one.”

Through 12 games, Nakladal has one goal and two points while playing bottom-pairing minutes for the Flames. He’s not yet a key cog for Calgary, but he has shown he’s a capable defender which could lead to an extension of his one-year, entry-level contract that he signed in May.

There’s still no certainty about when Nakladal will suit up again, but he was held out of the lineup Monday ahead of Calgary’s tilt with the San Jose Sharks. Miraculously, though, Nakladal hasn’t been ruled out of participating in Wednesday’s game against the Nashville Predators. That’s an impressive recovery after what could have been a potentially career-ending injury.