Heatley returns to ice tonight against Blues

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

ATLANTA -- Dany Heatley's quick return to the ice couldn't come at a better time for the Atlanta Thrashers.

The star right wing plans to play tonight for the first time since surviving a car wreck in September that killed teammate Dan Snyder and left Heatley with serious injuries.

His scheduled return against St. Louis at home will cap a recovery from two torn knee ligaments and a broken jaw. He had surgery in October to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee.

"I met with the doctors Saturday for about the 17th time about his status," Thrashers general manager Don Waddell said Tuesday. "They assured us he was 100 percent."

After leading the Southeast Division for much of the season, Atlanta has dropped to second place, six points behind Tampa Bay. The Thrashers were tied for ninth in the Eastern Conference with the New York Rangers entering play Tuesday night, four points behind the eighth and final playoff spot.

"It's nice to help, but at the same time, that has no bearing on whether I was ready to play or I wasn't ready to play," Heatley said. "It's going to be fun to get going in the middle of a playoff run."

Coach Bob Hartley and Heatley decided on the move after practice Tuesday. Heatley skated for the first time following surgery on Dec. 23, then joined his teammates in a pregame skate about 10 days ago.

"I've seen Dany skate lots of miles out there, and we've put him through full-contact drills and practice," Hartley said. "There's absolutely no pain. (Wednesday) night or two months from now won't make his knee any stronger."

Heatley was charged with vehicular homicide after Snyder died from head injuries.

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