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Pens defenseman Gonchar out 4-6 weeks

The Penguins will be without top defenseman Sergei Gonchar for between 4-6 weeks with a broken bone in his left wrist, coach Dan Bylsma said today.

Gonchar will not need surgery, but his bone has been reset in a cast.

Gonchar left the club's victory against St. Louis on Tuesday night midway through the second period. The collision St. Louis right wing David Backes that caused Gonchar's injury was not seen by most teammates or observers, and Bylsma said after the game that video footage was not ideal to assess the sequence.

Bylsma said today that he did not view the hit as illegal or dirty, and labeled Gonchar's injury as a result as "just unfortunate."

Gonchar will be replaced in the lineup by veteran defenseman Martin Skoula, who was signed by the Penguins in late September. Skoula has yet to play this season, but has appeared in no fewer than 79 games in each of his previous nine National Hockey League seasons.

Bylsma also said young defensemen Kris Letang, in his third full season, and Alex Goligoski, who played half of last season, will be "sprinkled around" in the defense pairings. The defense corps also includes Brooks Orpik, Mark Eaton and Jay McKee.

This will mark the second consecutive season in which Gonchar has missed significant time. He did not play in the Penguins' first 56 games last season because of a left shoulder injury. He was injured during the club's first exhibition game and didn't return until Feb. 14, and the Penguins were on the outside of the Easter Conference playoff bubble by that point. He scored six goals and recorded 19 points, third-most among club defensemen, in 25 games to close the 2008-09 regular season, and the Penguins were 17-4-4 in games he played.

Gonchar also missed two games in the Penguins' second round playoff series against Washington after a knee-on-knee collision with Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin. He spent the past summer recovering from a partially torn medial collateral ligament, though he did not need surgery.

Gonchar, 35, is in the final year of his contract with the Penguins. Talks about an extension that would allow him to finish his National Hockey League career with the franchise are expected to resume Jan. 1; both sides recently agreed to a postponement of discussions until the Penguins have a better idea on the 2010-10 league salary cap.

Gonchar is joined by Penguins captain Sidney Crosby as the third most tenured player on the team behind goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Orpik, who will fill in for Gonchar as an alternate captain.

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