Panthers' Zednik may be discharged in 48 to 72 hours

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- With Richard Zednik on their top
line, the Florida Panthers faced an uphill battle just to make the

Without him, they vow to fight harder.

Zednik continued what some termed a remarkable recovery Tuesday,
when his condition was upgraded to good and he was moved out of the
intensive care unit at Buffalo General Hospital. That was just two
days after teammate Olli Jokinen's skate blade sliced into Zednik's forward's neck during a play in the corner, when Jokinen was upended. The blade cut Zednik's carotid artery and
stopping just shy of his jugular vein.

On Wednesday, the Panthers will play their first game since the
accident, hosting the Montreal Canadiens.

Panthers coach Jacques Martin said after the morning skate that he hadn't had a chance to talk with Zednik on Wednesday, but trainer Dave Zenobi had.

According to the Panthers, more than 15,000 fans have left e-mail messages on the team's Web site. The team is also setting up an oversized get-well banner for fans to sign, which will be delivered to the Zedniks' home in western Broward County.

Early in the afternoon, the hospital released a statement from Richard Zednik's wife, Jessica: "On behalf of Richard and our entire family, I want to thank the fans, his teammates, the Panthers and Sabres organizations, plus so many others for their prayers and well wishes.

"I especially want to thank the medical staff involved in his care and the Buffalo General Hospital for their tremendous support during this difficult time. Richard continues to improve and we are encouraged each day. We thank you for respecting our privacy and would ask everyone to continue to keep Richard in their thoughts over the next few days."

According to the hospital, Dr.
Sonya Noor, Zednik's attending surgeon, said Zednik continues to improve and should be discharged during the next 48 to 72 hours.

Noor said Jessica Zednik's sisters are also at the hospital, and Zednik has been speaking with his 4-year-old daughter at least twice a day.

On Tuesday, during a news conference, Noor said Zednik had already asked about when he could return to training. She's recommending Zednik refrain from strenuous activity for three months and that returning to the ice would be a possibility next season.

"I think he will come back someday and play, if that's what he
chooses to do," Noor said.

Noor also cautioned that Zednik's return to the ice would be determined partly by his state of mind. She said hospital officials have talked to Zednik about seeking psychiatric counseling once he returns to Florida.

"I'm not an expert. I don't even want to claim to be something like a shrink, but in my experience with any kind of post-traumatic stress, it's what he will go through, and I think he needs to be evaluated and followed strictly for that," said Noor, adding that Zednik has been in good spirits.

The Panthers were also without center Stephen Weiss for their game Wednesday night against the Canadiens.

Weiss has been battling the flu for the past few days, Martin said, and his absence forced Florida -- which was missing two of its top five scorers Wednesday -- to further juggle its lines.

Rookie left winger Stefan Meyer was called up from Rochester on Wednesday to replace Weiss, whose availability for Florida's game with Washington on Friday night is unknown.

Weiss has 10 goals and 23 assists this season. Zednik had 15 goals and 11 assists, including six goals in his previous five games before the injury.