A close call

The Baltimore Sun

Florida Panthers forward Richard Zednik stunned his attending surgeon at Buffalo General Hospital with his inquiry yesterday - the morning after teammate Olli Jokinen's skate sliced a major artery in Zednik's neck.

"He actually asked me when he could go back to training," Dr. Sonya Noor said.

And for the first time since the horrific accident in the third period of Sunday's 5-3 loss at Buffalo that could have cost Zednik his life, there was reason to smile.

The forward's 11th NHL season is over - Noor said during a news conference yesterday that it will be six to eight weeks before he can resume regular activity - though Zednik's agent and Panthers coach Jacques Martin strongly suggested his career isn't.

Doctors at Buffalo General Hospital said that though the common carotid artery was almost completely severed, no other arteries or veins were harmed and there was little, if any, nerve damage.

Noor said Zednik, a former Capital, is expected to move out of the intensive care unit today and spend a few more days in the hospital under observation before his release - expected to be before the end of this weekend. She added that it's very unlikely he will have permanent neurological or physical problems.

According to doctors, Zednik suffered a gash in his neck between 1 and 1 1/2 inches long and at least that deep. He managed to maintain consciousness until surgery. Around 9 p.m., less than an hour after he was hurt, Zednik underwent a one-hour procedure. He received five units of blood through transfusion.

Noor described the damaged artery as "hanging by a thread" and noted that it was critical the artery wasn't completely severed because one end would have retracted and become difficult to find.

Seconds after Jokinen was hit and his right leg went airborne and slashed Zednik near the corner, Sabres medical director Dr. Les Bisson rushed down from the fifth row in Section 105. Bisson helped lead Zednik, who stunningly was able to skate off the ice and keep walking, to a back room in HSBC Arena where the nearest stretcher was.

There, Bisson pressed a towel so hard on the right side of Zednik's neck to stop the bleeding that Bisson recalls Zednik telling him not to push too hard because it was hurting his neck.

At the hospital, Dr. Robert McCormack, an attending surgeon in the emergency room with Zednik, said doctors worried about his ability to breathe because of swelling in the neck, so they inserted a tube into his trachea.

Senators-Hurricanes -- Ottawa acquired forward Cory Stillman and defenseman Mike Commodore from Carolina for forward Patrick Eaves and defenseman Joe Corvo. Stillman has 21 goals and 25 assists in 55 games. Commodore is a rugged defenseman who had 12 points and 74 penalty minutes in 41 games. Eaves had four goals and six assists in 26 games. Corvo had six goals and 21 assists in 51 games.

Flyers -- Forward Simon Gagne is out after suffering his third concussion of the season Sunday in a loss against Pittsburgh. The former All-Star hopes to return before the end of the season. Gagne has seven goals and 18 points in 25 games.

Canadiens -- Defenseman Ryan O'Byrne and right wing Thomas Kostopoulos joined their teammates for practice, hours after being arrested outside a Tampa, Fla., nightclub. O'Byrne, 23, has been accused of stealing a woman's purse, and Kostopoulos, 29, has been charged with resisting an officer, a Tampa police report says.

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