MONTREAL — Trent McCleary, who came within minutes of dying after being hit in the throat by a slap shot, felt well enough Sunday to write a note to his Montreal Canadien teammates.
"Doing great, everybody," said the handwritten message delivered by team doctor David Mulder.
He said he would be listening to Sunday's game, in which Montreal defeated Carolina, 3-0.
"Battle hard," the note said. "Go Habs." It was signed, "Trent No. 6."
McCleary is unable to speak but he is no longer in danger of dying, Mulder said Sunday. He is recovering from a fractured larynx and collapsed lung.
Doctors expect him to spend at least a week in the hospital, but it is unclear if he will play again.
The 27-year-old player, his skates still on, underwent an emergency tracheotomy Saturday night after being hit flush on the throat on a shot from Philadelphia's Chris Therien during a 2-2 tie.
"He's much better now," said Mulder, who treated the popular fourth-line winger from the time he was helped, limp and gasping for air, from the Molson Centre to Montreal General Hospital.
Ear, nose and throat specialists will decide today whether they should operate immediately on his larynx or wait several days for the swelling to subside. McCleary might be left with a raspy voice.
The only NHL player to die from an injury in a game was Bill Masterton, whose head struck the ice in 1968. Mulder said McCleary came close to dying.
"It was as close as I think you could come," Mulder said. "It was a matter of seconds. If we had been held up along the way . . ."
Mulder performed the tracheotomy--a hole cut into the base of the throat that opens an air passage--and ran a tube to reinflate the right lung. With his oxygen source restored, the worst danger was over. It all took less than 45 minutes.