BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Florida Panthers forward Richard Zednik
lost five units of blood, but doctors never considered his life in
jeopardy after the player had his carotid artery nearly severed by
a teammate's skate in a freak and frightening accident.
Zednik underwent an hour of surgery to reconnect the artery
Sunday night and was listed in stable condition in the intensive
care unit at Buffalo General Hospital on Monday. He was awake and
cooperative with the medical staff, doctors said.
Attending surgeon Sonya Noor said there were no initial signs of
brain damage, which is a fear whenever the coratid artery is
clamped. She said clamps were in place for about 15 to 20 minutes
during surgery, which she considers a short time.
"So far, he looks very good. He's awake, oriented," said Noor.
"He remembers what happened last night."
Zednik was sliced across the right side of the throat by
teammate Olli Jokinen's skate midway through the third period of
Buffalo's 5-3 victory. Doctors said the skate blade just missed
cutting the jugular vein.
The carotid artery supplies blood to the brain, while the
jugular vein takes blood from the brain. Blood pressure is much
higher in the carotid artery.
Sabres orthopedic surgeon Les Bisson, who attended to Zednik
shortly after he got off the ice, said losing five units -- about
five pints -- of blood was significant, but "not a lot" for this
type of injury.
According to Noor, the slashed artery was "hanging by a
thread." She stressed if the artery had been completely severed it
would have recessed into the neck, requiring even more extensive
Prior to surgery, doctors noted that Zednik's blood pressure was
dropping, and there was also swelling around the cut making it
difficult to breath. Doctors put a tube in his neck to open an
Robert McCormack, the hospital's clinical chief of emergency
medicine, said: "We became concerned. He was clearly in shock from
blood loss. His heart rate was high, his blood pressure was a bit
Vascular surgeon Richard Curl, who assisted Noor, said the cut
was about an inch-and-a-half deep and also as wide. Doctors were
astonished the skate blade did not hit any other arteries or veins
or cause any further damage.
"Luck," was a factor, according to Noor.
"He might have some hoarseness and that's about it at this
point," said Noor, who said Zednik had a "normal, beautiful
The Panthers returned home to South Florida following the game,
a flight coach Jacques Martin said was "pretty quiet."
However, Zednik was joined at the hospital by his wife, Jessica,
and Karen Cohen, wife of Alan Cohen, who is the Panthers' general
partner, chairman of the board and CEO, hospital spokesman Mike
Hughes said in a release. The two arrived by charter flight late
Zednik will remain in the ICU at least one more day, but it is
uncertain when he will be discharged and allowed to return to
Florida, Noor said. It will be six to eight weeks before he can
return to normal activity.
"The entire Panthers organization wish to extend their sincere
gratitude and appreciation to the medical staff at Buffalo General
Hospital, the Buffalo Sabres organization, the HSBC Arena staff and
to the Panthers and Sabres fans who have expressed their thoughts
and concerns," Panthers assistant general manager Randy Sexton
Sexton and Panthers assistant trainer Dave Zenobi stayed
overnight with Zednik at the hospital.
Zednik was circling the net behind the play and skating into the
corner when Jokinen was upended by Sabres forward Clarke MacArthur.
Jokinen fell headfirst to the ice, and his right leg and skate flew
up and struck Zednik directly on the side of the neck.
Clutching his neck, Zednik left a trail of blood as he somehow
raced three-quarters the length of the ice to the Panthers bench.
He nearly fell into the arms of Zenobi, who immediately placed a
towel on the player's throat. With the help of defenseman
Jassen Cullimore, Zednik was escorted up the tunnel behind the bench and
loaded into an ambulance.
Bisson, the Sabres' doctor, said injuries to the carotid artery
are potentially fatal, but stressed that was not a concern because
Zednik was conscious and responding to commands.
"That could be fatal, but I wouldn't say he was close to
death," Bisson said. "If you can stop the bleeding, then you have
some time ... I wouldn't say at any point, we're thinking: 'He's
going to die now.'"
A 12-year veteran, Zednik is in his first season with the
When Zednik was with Montreal he sustained a severe concussion,
broken nose, bruised throat and cut eyelid following a vicious blow
to the face by Boston's Kyle McLaren during the 2002 playoffs.
Zednik was knocked cold, had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher
and spent the night in intensive care.
McLaren was suspended by the NHL for the rest of the Eastern
Conference quarterfinals, missing the final two games of the
series, which Montreal won in six games.
Zednik returned the following season to score a career-high 31
goals and match a career high with 50 points.
He signed with the Panthers as a free agent last summer. After a
two-month slump, he has been playing well. He entered the game on a
four-game point streak, in which he had six goals and three
assists, giving him 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists) in 54 games
"I think he'll be able to continue his career," Martin said.
"I think it's too soon to establish a time of his return."