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Weight to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery

by Brian Compton
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- There is a strong possibility that New York Islanders captain Doug Weight played his last NHL game on Thursday night.

But if the 39-year-old gets his way, that won't be the case as he prepares to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery on Thursday. Weight, who has appeared in 1,220 NHL games since entering the League with the New York Rangers in 1991, went 1-16-17 in 36 contests this season.

"It's a pretty intrusive surgery," Weight said on Saturday morning at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where his team will host the New Jersey Devils at 7 p.m. ET. "I'm going to approach it with aspirations of still playing hockey. I think I still have the fire in my stomach when I hit the ice. My legs still feel very strong. The rest will be written in the summer. We'll see what happens. I don't know if it's going to be with the Islanders or not. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

"If it was my last game, I have no regrets. I had an unbelievable career as far as enjoying myself and meeting people and playing the greatest game in the world."

Weight first suffered the injury roughly four months ago, but did his best to play through it while the Islanders were in the thick of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. New York, however, has fallen on hard times in recent weeks and enters Saturday's game 11 points behind the Boston Bruins for the No. 8 seed. Certainly, that made the decision to have surgery a bit easier.

"The injury happened in November," Weight said. "I had torn my rotator cuff and my labrum completely. It was a tough 25 games mentally. I think surgery was probably going to happen no matter what, but we had a pretty good start. It's a long recovery. Looking back, I don't regret the decision. It's not the hockey I wanted to play.

"I couldn't finish a check, I couldn't take a check, I couldn't handle the puck," he added. "I couldn't shoot the puck with the velocity that I was used to shooting. You really realize the quickness of this game and the strength of this game. It's frustrating."

"Any other player probably would have had surgery back in January," Isles coach Scott Gordon said. "It's that serious of an injury that he tried to fight through and play and fulfill his commitment to our team. In my eyes, he was very unselfish about it. He could have just packed it in, and he didn't. He gave it his best shot."

Weight's biggest role on the club involved the mentoring of rookie John Tavares, who was the first pick at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The two have developed a close friendship as Tavares and teammate Matt Moulson live in Weight's guest house.

"It's tough for all of us," Tavares said after his captain addressed the team. "He's been such a great player for such a long time, and obviously our leader, our captain. He just felt that he's not playing at the level that he's usually accustomed to. It's difficult for him. He wasn't playing with much strength. We're going to miss him the rest of the season. For me, he's been great this whole season and I'm sure for a long time ahead. He's a special guy."

The logical replacement for Weight as captain next season appears to be Kyle Okposo, who was the Isles' first-round draft choice (No. 7) in 2006. Okposo will only turn 22 next month, but benefited from having Weight in the dressing room the past two seasons.

"It's sad," Okposo said. "He's such a good guy to have in the room. He's taught us so much. He carries himself so well. He always seems to have nice things to say, but at the same time, he knows when to be hard on himself or hard on the boys, if need be. Just the way he controls the room is something that's respected. Obviously, we just wish him the best and a speedy recovery."

Should Weight hang up the blades, he'll have 276 goals, 748 assists and a Stanley Cup on his resume. The Detroit native helped the Carolina Hurricanes win the franchise's lone championship in 2006, when he had 16 points in 23 postseason contests.

"I keep myself in good shape and I expect it to respond well (to the surgery)," Weight said. "I enjoy the challenge that I have ahead of me. I have no regrets if I don't play again in this League. I wouldn't be happy about it, but I'd be fine with it.

"I'm going to attack this like I'm 25 and I've got to be ready for camp. I'm going to try to be 100 percent by September. That's what my goal is."

If he's able to come back, Weight hopes it's on Long Island. If things don't work out, though, he'll reflect on his time with the Islanders with nothing but fond memories.

"To be the captain of this team was a great honor and responsibility," Weight said. "I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the personalities on this team. This city has great things ahead of it with this organization and this team. I want to be a part of it. But it was fun just to see them grow the amount they grew. It's a fun team."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter at: @BComptonNHL

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