Gonchar, Malone expected to play tomorrow night

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Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar, perhaps the modern-day Kirk Gibson of Pittsburgh hockey, and forward Ryan Malone are expected to play tomorrow night in Stanley Cup final Game 6, Coach Michel Therrien said this afternoon.

Gonchar injured his back midway through regulation of last night's Game 5, which the Penguins eventually won in the third overtime on a power play where a stiff and sore Gonchar made his return to the ice -- assisting on Petr Sykora's game-winner, 4-3. Therrien said Gonchar should be ready to play at 8 p.m. tomorrow inside Mellon Arena, with Detroit still leading the championship series by three games to two.

"He's an important part of this hockey team, there's no doubt about that," Therrien said of Gonchar. "After the hit to the boards he took, he was not in a position to compete five on five [even strength]. The medical staff worked on him the rest of the game. They came to see us before the third overtime [and said] that he felt pretty good. They were not in position to tell us he was able to compete around the net. So. . . we decided we were going to keep him on the bench and, if there was a power play, we were going to use him. Obviously, it paid off with a big goal."

Malone took a Hal Gill slapshot off his nose in the first period and may have broken a bone or bones in his face. Therrien said Malone was scheduled to undergo X-rays later today, though the coach expected nothing to prevent Malone from playing Game 6.

"He's got to pass some tests. We're not quite sure yet," Therrien said. "But I spoke to him after [Game 5 in Detroit]. I'll put it this way: I'll be very surprised if he doesn't play the game."

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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