Vrbata fears for friend

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Radim Vrbata looked at what happened to his good friend Jiri Fischer Monday night and wondered:

"What if he had been alone? What if he had been driving in his car?"

Those were tough questions for the Carolina Hurricanes winger yesterday.

"It could have happened anywhere. He's lucky it happened during a game. If it had happened somewhere else, it could have been a lot worse."

Fischer, the Detroit Red Wings defenceman, suffered a seizure and had his heart stop during the game against the Nashville Predators, but was revived on the bench.

"It's scary to see it happen to anybody in the league, but when it's someone you know ..." said Vrbata. "I'm happy he's doing well and happy everything is going to be okay."

Vrbata said he went on a Czech website yesterday morning and read an interview with Fischer's father, who said his son is "in good spirits."

Fischer played a huge role in Vrbata's life when Vrbata was a rookie with the Hull Olympiques in 1998-99.

"I couldn't speak any English so for the first couple of months, everything went through him," said Vrbata. "We were really close. We don't talk to each other every day, but we always check and see how the other guy is doing."

They have remained friends and played together with Liberec in the Czech league during the NHL lockout last year.

"My dad died two years ago of a heart attack, so I know what can happen," said Vrbata. "One second and everything changes."

Hear and There:

Fischer, then a rookie, lived at the home of Hurricanes D Aaron Ward when both were with the Wings. Ward was having a hard time believing a guy in such incredible shape could have health issues like Fischer has had. "I had to have the no-shirt rule in the house," said Ward yesterday. "He wasn't allowed to be shirtless in the house. The kid's built like a Greek god. I didn't want my wife seeing that. One day he was sitting at the computer with no shirt on and I'm like, 'Hey, Jiri, you know the rule!' "

THE BUZZ: Senators coach Bryan Murray showed the team a video before the game pointing out the lazy stick penalties they've been taking. So what happens? W Dany Heatley gets called for tripping in the offensive zone less than three minutes into the game. Oops ... 'Canes rookie Eric Staal has turned heads with his offensive numbers, but don't overlook the strength of his two-way game. He's a team-leading +9 this year and led the AHL (+37) last year.

Revelations:

It's always interesting to listen to coaches break down the technical aspects of the game. Surely there is some key bit of strategy that helped the 'Canes beat the Senators in their first two meetings, right, Peter Laviolette? "(The Senators) are a team you can't play loosey-goosey with," said the Carolina coach. Not sure if that's a term in the Hockey Canada manuals ... Dunno if he planned it that way, but Jason Spezza's double-clutch backhander looked like it fooled Carolina G Martin Gerber.

Speculations:

The 'Canes didn't have a penalty shot last night. That rates as news. They have had four in their last seven games. The fans wanted one in the first when F Mike Zigomanis was tripped, but the puck was touched first ... With W Chris Neil out of the lineup, D Christoph Schubert got to play on the fourth line last night. First shift: He winds up on a 2-on-1 with Chris Kelly. Gerber blocked his shot. Schubert looked, well, like a defenceman on the fourth line ... Hey, he made up for it later, banking in his first career goal to make it 2-0. On that one, he looked like Wayne Gretzky.

Just Wondering:

How much do the Hurricanes miss C Rod Brind'Amour? Dunno. How much would any team miss one of the league's best faceoff men and penalty killers? ... I don't want to say the banners in the rafters of the RBC Center are a little overdone, but do they put one up every time the N.C. State Wolfpack wins a game?

Let Me Say This About That:

Something you don't see often: Senators D Zdeno Chara put on his butt. It happened in the second when Carolina F Erik Cole got him with a good hit ... Schubert's having a good night until Carolina's Mike Commodore takes him out with a knee-on-knee hit in the the second ... Schubert's back a couple of shifts later ... Chara bounces back, too, doing a great job while helping to kill off the 'Canes' 5-on-3 for a minute and 22 seconds in the second.

Napkin Notes:

If you're ever in the area and you go to the Carolina Ale House, don't bother with the brew called "Purple Haze." I had to try one because of the name. To start with, it's not purple. "Yeah, it is," said our bartender, Duhhhh (really, that's what her nametag said), as she held it up to the light. "Well, more purple than your average beer," she said. It tasted like purple, though, which probably isn't a good thing compared to your average beer.


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