ike Gartner's eye injury is not as serious as the Washington Capitals' right wing feared and he was given clearance yesterday to resume skating Wednesday, with a chance he can rejoin the team in Montreal Saturday.

Gartner was examined this morning in Chevy Chase, Md., by Dr. David Berler, who informed General Manager David Poile that, pending another examination Friday, it appeared that Gartner could return to action this week.

"Mike did suffer a contusion to the optic nerve of the left eye, which caused some visual loss in the eye," Poile reported by telephone from Toronto. "He is being given steroids to reduce the inflammation. It will be several weeks before things level off and his final sight is determined, and there likely will be a reduction of vision, but the injury will not affect his hockey career.

"There are no plans for either eyeglasses or contacts, but he will play with a shield. Mike has had a visual weakness in the right eye, with the left eye compensating for the loss. Now there is reason to believe that the right eye will become stronger to compensate for the left eye's deficiencies."

Berler said he would examine Gartner Friday and that if his eye continued to improve he would go to Montreal and see limited action in Saturday's game. Berler said there is no way of telling how long it will be until Gartner's eye is fully healed.

"Every time we see him, we reevaluate it," the physician said.

Gartner said today he plans to practice by himself Wednesday and that his eyesight "has made improvements over the past week, but it is slow. My vision is blurred, but I feel confident I can play. A few days ago, I couldn't even drive a car."

Gartner was struck in the left eye by a puck Feb. 13 and the continued blurred vision had led to fears that the optic nerve might have suffered permanent damage.