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Penguins

Malkin doesn't need surgery

| Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2006

FORT MONTGOMERY, N.Y. - Penguins center Evgeni Malkin will not need surgery on his dislocated left shoulder, general manager Ray Shero confirmed Monday.

But Shero would not give a timetable for how long the 20-year-old Russian rookie might be out of the lineup.

"We need to see over the course of time with the rehab how he responds," Shero said. "Everybody's different. I don't want to say two weeks when it could be longer or four weeks when it could be shorter. We'll just go as he responds."

Shero said the team hopes to have a better idea later in the week about when Malkin may be ready to play.

The Penguins open the season Oct. 5 against the Philadelphia Flyers. While Shero hesitated to rule Malkin out of that game, the chances of him playing are slim. Many dislocations in hockey take at least two weeks to heal, and many take 4-6 weeks.

Malkin, 20, was injured during his preseason debut last Wednesday in Moncton, New Brunswick, when he and teammate John LeClair collided behind the net.

He was re-evaluated Monday morning by a NHL Players' Association doctor, who did not recommend surgery. Allowing the injury to heal through rehab will allow Malkin to get back on the ice in less time than if he had surgery. However, if the injury becomes recurring, then surgery might be unavoidable down the road.

For now, Malkin and the Penguins are happy with the prognosis.

"It's really good news for him as well (as the team)," Shero said. "No one really knew what to expect. I'm happy for him."

Malkin will remain in Pittsburgh this week to continue rehab and conditioning along with teammate Ronald Petrovicky -- he underwent hip surgery last week -- while the Penguins train and do team-building exercises at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

"I think it's better for him staying there and doing therapy in Pittsburgh," Shero said. "Obviously he's getting individualized attention there, and he's on a schedule with (physical therapist) Mark (Mortland)."

If Malkin isn't able to start the season, that could open a door for 18-year-old Jordan Staal to make the team. Even if the Penguins don't want to keep Staal for the entire season, they could still sign him, let him play in nine or fewer NHL games and then send him back to his junior team without it counting as a year on his contract.

The benefit is Staal could get a taste of the NHL, and the Penguins could have a big, offensive center for their second line -- between Mark Recchi and Ryan Malone -- for the month of October.

Shero said yesterday that Staal's chances of making the team don't hinge on Malkin's injury.

"Jordan is a different case," Shero said. "I think the decision is going to be made about Jordan Staal, not Malkin or anyone else. Whether we sign him in the next week or send him back to juniors, we want to do what's best for Jordan, not be self-serving. We've talked about it almost every day, how he's doing, what role he'd be in, what impact he would have and what the learning curve would be."

Note: After arriving here, the Penguins played paintball before having dinner with Brian Riley, head coach of the West Point hockey team. Today, they will begin practicing and training with former Green Beret J.B. Spisso at the United States Military Academy. The team returns to Pittsburgh on Thursday.

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