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Gonchar likely out at least six weeks

| Friday, Sept. 26, 2008

The timeframe for defenseman Sergei Gonchar's recovery from a left shoulder dislocation is likely between six weeks and six months.

Gonchar, out since last Saturday when he was hit by Tampa Bay forward David Koci, said Thursday he will meet with an orthopedic specialist on Monday -- part of a continued attempt to educate himself on non-surgical alternatives.

He has already been examined by team physician Dr. Charles Burke and an orthopedic specialist.

"It's either, 'You're doing surgery' or 'You're not doing surgery.'" Gonchar said of his options. "I still have time before we do anything. Either way we're going, I have to make sure my shoulder is strong and all the swelling is going down."

The Penguins officially list Gonchar as "out indefinitely." General manager Ray Shero said Wednesday that Gonchar is rehabbing the injury, but he is not willing to speculate on recovery time.

Rehabilitation to full health from a dislocated left shoulder usually takes six weeks, Dr. Trent Gause of North Hills-based Tri Rivers Surgical Associates said yesterday.

Dr. Gause, not familiar with the specifics of Gonchar's injury, said recovery from surgery to correct a left-shoulder dislocation is between "four and six months, especially for a contact athlete."

"It's always a debate with an athlete if you fix the shoulder or let him go back and play," Dr. Gause said. "If it's a recurrent problem, then you fix it with surgery."

Gonchar said this is his first shoulder injury.

Gonchar has yet to receive a magnetic resonance imaging test due to swelling around the left shoulder. He "knew right away" his shoulder was seriously injured by Koci's hit.

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, a close confidant of Gonchar, knows that feeling. Malkin's left shoulder was dislocated Sept. 20, 2006, in a collision with teammate John LeClair. It was Malkin's first NHL exhibition game, and the injury -- which did not require surgery -- kept him out four weeks.

"All dislocations are different," Shero said.

The Penguins are just happy they have Malkin, especially now that they are without Gonchar, who tallied 132 power-play points the past three seasons.

The Penguins are banking on Malkin producing as he did last season over the 28 games missed by center Sidney Crosby due to an ankle injury. Malkin scored 20 goals and registered 46 points over that span -- the fuel to his fiery pursuit of Washington left wing Alexander Ovechkin for the scoring title. Malkin finished second to Ovechkin in that race and the one for league MVP.

"He's a very special player," right wing Petr Sykora said of Malkin. "He's the kind of player who thrives on that attention. It drives him. He loves being in special situations."

Malkin, who has replaced Gonchar at the point on the top power-play unit, assisted on Sykora's advantage goal to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead in Wednesday's exhibition win against Toronto.

That Malkin set up a power-play goal in his first full game working from Gonchar's customary spot did not surprise teammates. But Malkin said his approach won't change.

"I play my game," Malkin said. "I don't feel any different. I play the same with Sid and 'Gonch.' It's the same."

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