Shero sees a bright spot at end of tunnel for Gonchar's surgery

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STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- It's not that losing his top defenseman and power-play point man for four to six months is a small thing for Penguins general manager Ray Shero. It's just that he sees the big picture.

"It's not the worst-case scenario," Shero said yesterday, a day after learning that Sergei Gonchar had opted to have arthroscopic surgery tomorrow to repair his dislocated left shoulder. "My worst case was that he was going to be out for the season.

"With Dr. [Mark] Rodosky doing it this way, four to six months, we're going to get him back at some point, which is going to be great for us."

Shero said there was concern that if Gonchar had instead gone through rehabilitation and come back in a matter of weeks, he risked re-injuring the shoulder and perhaps being lost for the season.

With the loss of Gonchar, considered one of the top two-way defensemen in the NHL, and the absence of mobile defenseman Ryan Whitney, who is expected to be out until around December after offseason foot surgery, the team turns to second-year defenseman Kris Letang and rookie Alex Goligoski, who play similar styles but lack experience.

"They're going to have to step up," Shero said of Letang and Goligoski.

On the power play, Goligoski is expected to play the off point while center Evgeni Malkin mans the blue line in place of Gonchar, 34, who is strong enough offensively and defensively to run the power play and team with partner Brooks Orpik against opponents' top forward lines.

"It's a tough hole to fill, but I think we have proven that we have guys capable of stepping in and doing their best and still finding ways to be successful," said center and captain Sidney Crosby, who missed 28 games the second half of last season.

Malkin, who elevated his game while Crosby was out, will miss Gonchar because the older fellow Russian helped him with language and other aspects of being in North America and the NHL.

"He helped me every day," Malkin said.

And there will be a lot of days before the Penguins welcome back Gonchar, who was second in the league among defensemen in scoring the past two seasons and has 185 goals, 615 points in 904 NHL games.

"When he's ready to come back, we're going to have a spot for him," Shero said.


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