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Heatley's next recovery begins

Dany Heatley was back on the ice, his physical recovery complete. But he wore a constant reminder of that awful night on a patch above his heart.

No. 37. Dan Snyder's number.

Heatley made an emotional return to the Thrashers on Wednesday night, less than four months after a car wreck killed his teammate and friend.

"Welcome Back Dany," said a large banner unveiled behind one of the goals.

Heatley had several good chances, but failed to score. The Thrashers managed a tie at 1 with the Blues when Jeff Cowan scored with 2:24 left in regulation.

On the bench, Heatley celebrated with his gap-toothed smile, tapping his stick on the boards and patting teammate Ilya Kovalchuk on the helmet.

Like all of his teammates, Heatley wore a patch with Snyder's number on his sweater.

It's only been four months since the wreck _ enough time, amazingly, for Heatley's right knee to mend from surgery, but hardly long enough to get over the pain of losing the friend everyone called "Snydes."

That could take a lifetime.

"I just keep remembering the guy," Heatley said after the morning skate. "He was a great guy, a great teammate. I think about him every day."

Heatley was driving Sept. 29 when his sports car slammed into a wall with Snyder in the passenger seat. Heatley broke his jaw, injured a shoulder and tore ligaments in his knee. Snyder died six days later from massive brain injuries without ever regaining consciousness.

The crowd at Philips Arena welcomed Heatley back with a raucous ovation. Among the signs: "We're With You Dany!"

Less than 30 seconds after the puck dropped, Heatley, in the starting lineup, put a shoulder into Blues defenseman Bryce Salvador along the boards, and there was no doubt he was back.

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