Panthers-Capitals: Richard Zednik Returns to Washington

Allen PopelsCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2009

It was almost one year ago to today's date when Panthers forward Richard Zednik had his carotid artery slashed by his teammate Olli Jokinen in one of the most frightening scenes in hockey history.

Thanks to Zednik's quick thinking to get to the bench, and the quick response my emergency personnel in Buffalo, he is back on the ice this season and set to face his former team in Washington Saturday night for the first time since the incident.

"I'm amazed how everything went," said Caps rookie defenseman Karl Alzner.  "For him to get hurt like that and still get off the ice and to be in the state of mind of 'Let's help this' instead of sitting on the ice and hurting.  I'm very amazed that's he's made the comeback he has." 

Alzner went on to add, "Ever since then, every time I'm on the bench I'm always thinking protect myself when I'm jumping over the boards and anywhere there's skates around because it's scary to think things like that can happen."

"Personally I know Zednik from playing here," said defenseman Mike Green.  "He's a great guy so it's tough to see something like that happen to him.  But for him to bounce back, he's a big time player.  I'm happy for him but I hope he doesn't get any tomorrow."

"A, he played for the Capitals and b, you don't like to see anybody get hurt," said Bruce Boudreau.  "The whole hockey world is happy he is playing."

Zednik missed the only previous matchup of the season between the top two teams in the Southeast Division, a 5-3 Panthers win that handed Washington their first home regulation loss of the season.

The Panthers head into this matchup having won four of their last five games thanks in part to the offensive contributions they've received from defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Brian McCabe.

"They've got the highest scoring defense crew in the league," said Boudreau.  "We have to think of something [to shut them down].  We'll be watching video all day and figuring it out."

The Capitals will look to rebound from a sub-par effort in a rare 5-4 home loss to the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night.

"There were so many breakdowns last night but when you don't practice a lot, people forget," said Boudreau.  "We have this practice and then Monday and Tuesday's practice, [plus] a practice in Florida.  But after next weekend if you look at our schedule, there's very little time to practice."

Saturday's game marks the end of a streak where four of the Caps' last five games were played at the Verizon Center.  The team begins a three game road trip in New York against the Rangers on Wednesday, before returning to DC for their longest homestand of the season on February 18.