Mike Gartner has incurred damage to the optic nerve in his left eye that puts his hockey future in jeopardy.

The Washington Capitals' outstanding right wing also revealed, during a telephone call from his suburban Maryland home, that he had previously been troubled by defective vision in his right eye.

"My right eye was always bad and my left eye had compensated for it," Gartner said. "Now everything is blurry.

"The hemorrhaging has cleared up in my left eye and I've been taking cortisone to reduce the swelling. The eye was improving quite a bit, but it has leveled off the last couple of days. The final conclusion is that I have a damaged optic nerve.

"Now there will be further examinations to determine whether the damage is permanent or temporary. (Wife) Colleen and I are putting our faith in the Lord . . . I'm confident I can play again, but I may have to make some adjustments."

Gartner was struck in the left eye by a puck during the third period of a game against Winnipeg at Capital Centre Feb. 13. He has been examined by several eye specialists since and is to see Dr. David K. Berler in Chevy Chase Tuesday.

General Manager David Poile, by telephone from Toronto, expressed confidence that Gartner's injury is temporary and that he could play again, possibly as early as Saturday in Montreal.

"I've been told by (one) doctor that Mike is going to be all right, but that it could take a while," Poile said. " . . . I'm sure he's going to play--and soon."

Gartner's present vision in the left eye is rated 20/70, the right eye 20/40.

Besides the eye injury, Gartner suffered two fractures of the cheekbone and can experience no feeling in the cheek. He has been told it may be a year or more before feeling returns.

Gartner was hurt playing in his 248th consecutive game. Asked about the streak shortly before the accident, he said, "I've just been fortunate enough to stay away from serious injuries . . ."

With 148 goals in four seasons, Gartner, 23, is considered one of the outstanding young players in big-league hockey.

Eye injuries have been a longtime hockey problem, and youngsters now are required to wear face shields.

Capitals forward Bengt Gustafsson began wearing a shield last season and Bobby Carpenter joined him this year. Gartner said that he definitely would wear one when he returns to action.