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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Wednesday, February 13th (All times eastern)

Montreal Canadiens (29-19-9) at Florida Panthers (26-27-5), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Florida Panthers will return home tonight with heavy hearts, as the club takes on the Montreal Canadiens at BankAtlantic Center.

Few will blame the Panther skaters if their thoughts drift to Richard Zednik during the game, as the club will take to the ice for the first time since Zednik suffered a horrific cut to his neck during a game over the weekend.

In Sunday's 5-3 setback to Buffalo, Olli Jokinen was chasing down the puck in right corner of the Buffalo end halfway though the third period. Jokinen, though, was upended as he attempted to reach for the puck and his right leg lifted into the air and the skate blade hit Zednik in the neck.

Zednik was bleeding profusely as he skated to the Florida bench, and attendants jumped onto the ice and escorted him to the locker room. Zednik was then rushed to Buffalo General Hospital and underwent surgery to repair a cut to his carotid artery.

The surgery took about one hour and Zednik didn't suffer any nerve, neck or brain damage during the procedure. It is believed he will one day be able to continue his playing career, though playing again this regular season isn't likely.

The 32-year-old has 15 goals and 11 assists in 54 games of what is his first season with Florida. Zednik has 183 tallies and 163 assists in 675 career tests.

On Tuesday, Zednik's condition was upgraded from stable to good and he was moved out of intensive care and into a private room as well.

On Sunday, play was delayed for several minutes as both the benches and the crowd were silent until it was announced over the public address system that Zednik's condition was stabilized.

Nathan Horton had a goal and an assist while Craig Anderson made 26 saves for the Panthers, who had won four of five coming into the game. Branislav Mezei and Jokinen also scored.

Florida will have a tough time getting back to business, as they are in fourth place in the Southeast Division, but is just three points behind first-place Carolina.

The Panthers are 11-12-4 as the host this season and also welcome Washington to town for a big test on Friday.

Montreal has lost its last three games and is slipping in the race for the Northeast Division crown. The Canadiens have slipped to five points back of Ottawa in the standings, and they now have just a one-point edge over New Jersey for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Habs' latest setback came on Tuesday, as Vinny Prospal had a pair of goals, including the game-winner in the third period, as Tampa Bay downed Montreal, 3-2.

Chris Higgins and Tomas Plekanec both had a goal while Cristobal Huet gave up three goals on 36 shots for the Canadiens, who have dropped four of five overall. Plekanec's goal was his 21st of the season, a new career high. He had 20 goals in 81 games last year.

Ryan O'Byrne was in action just one night after he was arresting in Tampa Bay after begin accused of stealing a woman's purse. He was charged with grand theft. Teammate Tom Kostopoulos, who did not play versus the Lightning, was also arrested during the incident after getting charged with resisting an officer without violence.

Montreal has lost the first two tests of a three-game road trip that wraps tonight. The Canadiens are 17-9-4 as the visiting club this year and begin a home-and-home set versus the Flyers in Philadelphia on Saturday.

Florida has won two of three versus Montreal this year and five of its last seven against them overall. The Canadiens have dropped five of their last seven in Sunrise.

02/13 10:43:20 ET

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