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Zednik returns to warm greeting, delivers 2 assists

Friday, 10.17.2008 / 12:00 AM / Division Notebooks

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Richard Zednik was all smiles last Saturday when his name was announced during pre-game warmups at the BankAtlantic Center in Florida.

It was only last February that the skate blade of a teammate cut the external carotid artery of Zednik, leaving all who witnessed the horrible incident wondering if the 32-year-old Slovakian would not only play again, but survive the ordeal.

Those questions were emphatically answered Saturday when Zednik played in his first regular-season game since suffering the injury Feb. 10 at Buffalo. He notched a pair of assists and finished with a plus-2 rating while skating on a line with Stephen Weiss and David Booth. Zednik was sidelined for the final 24 games of 2007-08 during his recovery, but appears to be in tremendous condition to start the 2008-09 campaign.

In 2 games, Zednik has averaged 15:63 of ice time, 20 shifts and has a plus-2 rating.

"You could hear the people," Zednik said. "It was really nice."

Heavyweight welcome -- Years from now, some young reporter will approach Zach Bogosian and politely ask the grizzled defenseman to offer him his "Welcome to the NHL" moment.
The prized 2008 first-round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers will likely shake his head before recalling his one-on-one confrontation with Washington Capitals enforcer Donald Brashear in the team's season opener Oct. 9.

It started innocently enough. With less than 20 seconds remaining in a game that already was all but over, Bogosian shouldered Washington's David Steckel along the half boards in his defensive zone. Brashear didn't take kindly to the hit knocked into Bogosian. The rookie would eventually square off with the 36-year-old veteran before the officials broke up the 13-second fray.

"If the kid is going to fight, he might as well go with one of the toughest in the League right away," said Thrashers coach John Anderson. "I don't think Donald really knew who it was at first, but then once you're in it, you just gotta go. But Zach hung in there. He's a big, strong kid and, who knows, maybe in a couple of years Donald won't want to do that anymore."

Anderson was pleased with Bogosian's performance, which included 20 shifts totaling 12:58 of ice time. He also had 2 hits and was credited with 1 shot on goal.

"I really liked him and we have lots of time to make decisions with him, but I think he's here to stay," Anderson said. "I hope he continues to get better."

Capital relief --
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau had Sergei Fedorov playing defense alongside Milan Jurcina in Monday's 5-1 victory against Vancouver. The 38-year-old Fedorov had 1 assist, 4 shots on goal, a team-high plus-3 rating and was named the game's third star.

It marked the first time this season the 38-year-old Russian, who logged 20:21 of ice time, was manning the blue line.

"He's played there twice since joining us last season and we've won both times so I don't know if that's a coincidence or not, but it sure is a great option," Boudreau said. "It's taking nothing away from any of the guys. There's a sense of calmness when you've got Fedorov on the point, he gives good passes, talks a lot and is like a general. If I was out there and looking at a future Hall-of-Famer playing at my left side, it would give me a sense of ease."

"It was fun because you play every third shift," Fedorov told the Washington Post. "There's a rhythm. You stay in the game. I really did enjoy it. It kept me alert."

Because wing Donald Brashear remains day-to-day, it's possible Boudreau would be forced to move Fedorov back to third-line duty between Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr. If that happens, Jurcina could partner with John Erskine.

"Anytime you can hold a team to under 15-16 shots, you had a hell of a game," said Boudreau, whose club limited the Canucks to 10. "Not only is it a testament to the way you're playing, but also to the courage of the players blocking the shots."

Raring to go -- Forward Zach Boychuk, Carolina's first-round draft choice (No. 14) in 2007, has been medically cleared to rejoin his teammates on the ice following surgery on his left wrist in July.
There's a chance Boychuk could be inserted into the lineup either Friday in Los Angeles or Sunday in Anaheim.

"It was great to hear from the doctor (on Monday) that everything has healed just perfectly," Boychuk said. "It's a new bill of health, like a brand-new bone."

In addition to his surgery in July, Boychuk, who had 33 goals and 72 points in 61 games with Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League last season, had another procedure to remove a pin in the wrist in October.

Line shuffling --
Tampa Bay's top line of Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Vinny Prospal was split up on Saturday prior to the team's 4-3 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.

In an effort to infuse some renewed vigor into his team following back-to-back losses to the New York Rangers in Prague, Lightning coach Barry Melrose had Prospal working with rookie Steven Stamkos and Radim Vrbrata on the second unit. Filling in for Prospal on the top line was Ryan Malone.

Lecavalier actually registered his first goal of the season in the loss and both he and Vrbata each finished with a game-high 4 shots apiece. Still, entering Thursday's game against the Islanders, Lecavalier, St. Louis, Prospal and Vrbata had combined for just 2 goals, 5 points and a minus-3 rating through 3 games.

"We need our offensive players to start scoring goals. That's black and white. You're paid to score goals. You're paid to play hard offensively. You're paid to put the puck in the net. That's what we have to get our skill guys to do."
-- Lightning coach Barry Melrose

"We need our offensive players to start scoring goals. That's black and white," Melrose said. "You're paid to score goals. You're paid to play hard offensively. You're paid to put the puck in the net. That's what we have to get our skill guys to do."

While Melrose was disappointed with the outcome, he was excited by the energy and enthusiasm provided the 18,552 in attendance in the team's home opener.

"The building was awesome; it was rocking and we're just sorry we didn't play better and get the win for the fans," Melrose said. "Everyone knows this is great hockey town and it showed. Even with how well the baseball team is doing and the popularity of the football team, it was nice to see such a good crowd at our home opener."

Southeast leaderboard --
After getting off a slow start with a season-opening loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, the defending Southeast Division champion Washington Capitals appear to be regaining their form. Through games played Wednesday, the Caps had the top-scoring forward and defenseman within the Southeast Division.

Left wing Alexander Semin notched 3 goals and 6 points and defender Mike Green, who actually leads the League among defensemen in scoring, had 3 goals and 5 points. Semin, who scored the Capitals' first goal of the season, recorded his 6th point in his 16th game of 2007-08 on Dec. 15 at Tampa Bay. Semin posted his first 2-goal game of the season on Monday against Vancouver. He had just one two-goal game during his 26-goal season last year.
 
Green, who last year became the youngest player to lead the NHL in goals (18) by a defenseman since Paul Coffey, has scored all 3 of his goals with his team on the power play.

Washington goalie Brent Johnson sported a Division-leading 2.67 goals-against average in two appearances and Lightning goalie Mike Smith was tops in save percentage through two starts at .931.

 
 
Looking ahead -- The Lightning-Thrashers matchup Tuesday at St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa is the only contest featuring two Southeast Division foes this week.

The Thrashers spotted Tampa Bay victories in the opening 2 games of the 2007-08 season before reeling off 6-straight triumphs, including 2 in overtime. The contest also marks the initial meeting of the season between 2008 No. 1 draft pick Steven Stamkos of the Lightning and No. 3 choice Zach Bogosian of the Thrashers.

While the Lightning have tentatively agreed to a one-year contract with free-agent defenseman Marek Malik, Vice President of Hockey Operations Brian Lawton said nothing would be made official before Thursday's physical. Lawton said Malik could dress for Tuesday's game against Atlanta or against San Jose on Oct. 25.

Ice chips -- Florida defenseman Bryan McCabe's back injury is not as serious as in initially feared, and he could return to the Panthers' lineup as early as this month. The 33-year-old McCabe was injured during Friday's season-opening loss at Carolina after being slammed into the boards midway through the second period. … Tampa Bay center Jeff Halpern said he is skating for an hour five times a week and is expecting a mid-to-late December return to the lineup following reconstructive knee surgery to repair his MCL and ACL. … Lightning left wing Mark Recchi played his 100th game against the Islanders on Thursday night, the most of any active player. He also has played in 100 games against the Rangers. … Washington's average of 4.33 goals per game entering Thursday night's meeting with Pittsburgh tops the League while eight players have posted at least one goal.

After Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk was sent to the penalty box for diving in a 3-2 overtime loss to Florida on Saturday, he told the referee: "I never dive. I've never done it before, and I never did it. I just lost my balance. But he's the ref, and it's his call." … Michael Nylander converted the first penalty shot for the Washington Capitals since Nov. 23, 2005 when he scored on Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo in a 5-1 victory at Verizon Center on Monday. … According to Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post, the Capitals may be without first-line right wing Viktor Kozlov for two weeks because of an apparent left leg injury. That could force coach Bruce Boudreau to have Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Chris Clark on the top line and Michael Nylander centering Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin on the second unit.

Carolina rookie center Brandon Sutter, the son of Devils coach Brent Sutter, played more than 11 minutes Saturday at Tampa Bay while also logging ice time on the penalty kill. … Thrashers defenseman Nathan Oystrick made his NHL debut Tuesday night in a 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild. Oystrick replaced rookie Zach Bogosian, who was a healthy scratch. … After Florida's Jay Bouwmeester led the NHL in average ice time (27:28) last season, the 25-year-old defenseman is at it again, topping the NHL in playing time this year at 32:45 through two games. … Carolina coach Peter Laviolette will no longer hold a pre-game skate on game days for his team. "It's something we've talked about, and I think there's a lot of research that says you're probably just wasting energy out there," Laviolette said.

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.

I've been getting frustrated lately, and the only thing keeping me sane was the team winning and other people stepping up and scoring. Then you just kind of let it go and realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment, and that's what happened.

— Montreal forward Max Pacioretty after scoring the series-winner in Game 4 -- his first career playoff goal -- to eliminate the Lightning and send the Canadiens into the second round