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Panthers played with teammate on their mind

Thursday, 02.14.2008 / 9:30 AM / Game-Day Skate

By John Kreiser - Columnist

Richard Zednik remained in a Buffalo hospital Wednesday night while the Florida Panthers hosted the Montreal Canadiens. Watch Habs - Panthers highlights
A few thoughts as we all give thanks that Richard Zednik continues to improve:

Thinking of Richard — Richard Zednik remained in a Buffalo hospital Wednesday night while the Florida Panthers hosted the Montreal Canadiens. But signs of the injured forward were everywhere at the BankAtlantic Center.

There was a blood drive — a nod to Zednik needing five units of blood at Buffalo General Hospital after being cut in the throat by a skate during Sunday night’s game — that took place outside the building. A string of rosary beads swayed in his locker. Fans lined up to sign an oversized get-well card, and the Panthers ended their pregame ceremonies with a brief video tribute to Zednik.

The only thing the Panthers didn’t do was win the game — Montreal skated off with a 2-1 overtime win.

"I think we responded well," said captain Olli Jokinen, who spoke with Zednik earlier Wednesday. "We played hard. We just didn't find a way to score.

"Zed's spirit is still here," Jokinen added. "And we're going to do all we can for him and his family."

Doctors believe Zednik could be back in South Florida by the weekend. Zednik's wife released a statement Wednesday thanking countless people for their support.

"Richard continues to improve and we are encouraged each day," Jessica Zednik said. "We thank you for respecting our privacy and would ask everyone to continue to keep Richard in their thoughts over the next few days."

Thirty, again — Another year, another 30-win season. Such is life when you’re Martin Brodeur.

The future Hall of Famer reached the 30-win mark for an NHL-record 12th straight season when Brian Gionta’s overtime goal gave the New Jersey Devils a 3-2 victory over Ottawa. He was very matter-of-fact about reaching the milestone.

"It's one of the things I set for myself," he said. "Thirty (wins) at the end of the year is not a big number, but not that many goalies do it in consecutive years, so it's nice.”

What’s next?

"Now I'll look forward to try to hit 35 next," he said.

The way he’s playing, don’t be surprised if Brodeur reaches 40 wins for the NHL-record seventh time in his career.

Devilish confidence — New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello is one of hockey’s smartest executives and is known for finding the missing pieces the Devils need at the trading deadline. Gionta said having Lamoriello in charge is a major confidence boost for the team.

“We have a lot of great guys in the room. That’s why we leave it up to Lou — he’s going to try to make this team better,” Gionta said. “No matter what he does, he’s going to give us a chance to win. That’s why you want to be a Devil.”

Gionta might have to pick up his scoring pace if he wants to stay a Devil. His overtime goal on Wednesday night ended a 13-game drought.

Hitch feels their pain — The crowd at Nationwide Arena booed the Columbus Blue Jackets as they skated off after the first period down 4-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks. Had he been in the stands instead of behind the bench, Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock probably would have joined them.

“These are not rookie mistakes. These are fundamental errors made by good players" - Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock

He certainly wasn’t happy with his team’s performance in a game that ended as a 7-2 loss.

“These are not rookie mistakes. These are fundamental errors made by good players," a visibly upset Hitchcock said. "Hockey's a game of emotion and intensity and when the other team has it and you don't, you're not going to have very many successful nights. That's what happened tonight."

The Jackets are four points out of the last playoff spot in the West, but losses like that don’t help.

"This will take us one way or the other," Hitchcock said. "We're either going to go up and grab this thing, or we're going to go (making a sound like a balloon rapidly deflating)."

Hanging in there — The Buffalo Sabres are the NHL’s hottest team — they’re 8-0-2 and seventh in the East after Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Toronto. But just three weeks ago, they were next-to-last after a 1-7-5 slide.

Coach Lindy Ruff is proud of the way his team has rebounded.

“The players deserve all the credit,” he said. “It’s not easy to go through that — not easy to stick with it. They’ve been able to pull through, they’ve hung together. They believe in their goaltender, they believe in the system. Night in and night out, they’ve stayed with it, and they’ve been rewarded.”

Though the Sabres now own a playoff berth, goaltender Ryan Miller has higher goals.

“It feels good, but the job's not done,” he said. “We're excited for the possibility to keep climbing. Our goal isn't eighth or seventh — sixth is the next spot.”

Passing fancy — Atlanta goaltender Kari Lehtonen makes his living stopping goals, not setting them up. But Lehtonen earned an assist with a pass that stickhandling wizards like Martin Brodeur and Rick DiPietro would have been proud of – a stretch pass that set up Marian Hossa’s breakaway goal late in the second period against Washington.

"He saw me right away," Hossa said. "We had a little eye contact. It's like half a second. He made a very good pass to me. I was just hoping. I was all open. I had a lot of time to do something."

Though Atlanta fans chanted “Kari, Kari” after the play, Lehtonen has no illusions about his “offensive” skills.

"I still believe I'm a better goaltender than a passer," he said.

Lehtonen did pretty well at his regular job, too — he made 39 saves and stopped two shootout attempts in the Thrashers’ 3-2 victory.

Mark of “Z” — Everyone wants to play shut-down defense against the Pittsburgh Penguins’ high-octane offense. But the Boston Bruins have a weapon no one else does — 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara.

Chara spent most of Wednesday night’s game shutting down Pens star Evgeni Malkin, who had a power-play goal but otherwise was neutralized in Boston’s 2-1 victory at Mellon Arena. Chara was named the game’s first star despite not scoring a point.

"We really need to play like this the rest of the season, this is a desperate time with the way the standings are," Chara said after the Bruins won the opener of a five-game trip to edge into eighth place in the Eastern Conference. "We played hard for each other and stuck together."

Contact John Kreiser at

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