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'AM I GOING TO SEE HER GROW UP?'

After skate sliced neck, Zednik thought of child.

Richard Zednik knew he had to get to the bench - fast. Once there, he thought of his 4-year-old daughter, Ella.

"I remember thinking, 'Am I going to see her grow up?'" the Panthers wing said Thursday at his first news conference since his carotid artery was sliced by teammate Olli Jokinen's skate Feb. 10 at Buffalo. "It felt like somebody stabbed me. When I got to the bench, I knew it was an artery the way the blood was going."

After immediate surgery, Zednik, 32, left a hospital Feb. 14. He is expected to be out eight more weeks, which will be the rest of the season if Florida can't catch the five teams ahead of it for the East's last playoff spot.

"I can't wait to get back and be with the guys," he said.

Zednik, a 12-year veteran who has 15 goals and 11 assists this season, said while recovering he has shopped for cars on the Internet, spent time with Ella and taken a call from Ivan Gasparovic, president of his native Slovakia.

"It was short," Zednik said. "He's such a nice guy."

He said he has seen the footage of his injury only once and won't watch it again.

"At first, when I was in the Buffalo hospital, I was like, 'No, I don't want to watch.' I was like still kind of in shock," Zednik said. "But then when I got back to Florida ... I was curious. I watched it once. That's enough."

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