SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers fans last night got their first chance to show support for winger Richard Zednik, whose carotid artery was cut in a freak accident during a Feb. 10 game in Buffalo.
Zednik appeared in a pregame ceremony at BankAtlantic Center before the Panthers played the Penguins as Florida trainer Dave Zenobi received an award for saving Zednik's life. Zenobi was the first to attend to Zednik after teammate Olli Jokinen's skate cut the player's neck. The trainer applied a towel and pressure to help stem the profuse bleeding.
Zednik and Zenobi got a loud ovation.
Goaltender Ty Conklin, who stepped in while Marc-Andre Fleury was hurt, is the nominee from the Penguins for the Masterton Award, which goes to the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
"Any time you're up for an award it's nice, but I think more than anything I got an opportunity and I made the most of it," said Conklin, who was 17-6-5 with two shutouts and lead the NHL with a .927 save percentage before last night.
Penguins coach Michel Therrien gives his team days off when he can this time of the season.
It just so happens that the one today falls while the team is in Florida and staying at a hotel by the beach.
Most of the players seemed more interested in a quiet day off than finding an outdoor adventure.
"I think guys are just going to relax, sleep in and hit the beach," said defenseman Ryan Whitney.
Whitney spent Wednesday evening with his parents, who followed the Penguins to Florida, but he planned on hanging out with his teammates today.
"A day off with the guys down here should be fun," Whitney said. "We can relax for one day. We're here. It's nice weather. It's nice to be on the beach, but these are big games to try to stay in first place, so it's just one day."
Former Penguins defenseman Noah Welch, who was traded to the Panthers last year at the trade deadline for Gary Roberts, barely missed being able to come back from shoulder surgery to play against the team that drafted him.
Welch yesterday hit four months since he was sidelined by shoulder surgery. He is aiming for Florida's game Wednesday against the New York Islanders for his return.
"It's a tough game to watch, for sure," Welch said of the Panthers' matchup against the Penguins.
Welch played in just four games, with no points, before he was injured.
"I had pretty big expectations for myself this year, so it was frustrating," he said.
Penguins forwards Roberts (ankle), Marian Hossa (knee) and Kris Beech (wrist) continued to skate with conditioning coach Mike Kadar. ... Florida coach and general manager Jacques Martin was asked several times about Chad Kilger, who was traded to the Panthers by Toronto last week. Kilger was granted a short leave of absence, but was suspended Wednesday for continuing to be a no-show. "It's personal issues," Martin said. "He's suspended. I don't have any more information." ... The game launched a seven-game homestand for the Panthers, only the second one that long in team history. ... The Penguins' only healthy scratch was goaltender Dany Sabourin. Florida scratched defenseman Branislav Mezei.