The Penguins will go through much of the 2008-09 regular season without their two best offensive defensemen.
Sergei Gonchar will have surgery on his dislocated left shoulder, probably this week, and figures to miss four to six months.
He will join defenseman Ryan Whitney, who is expected to be out until at least December while recovering from foot surgery, on the long-term injury list.
Gonchar was hurt in the Penguins' first preseason game Sept. 20, when he absorbed a hard check from Tampa Bay winger David Koci. He went to Cleveland yesterday for a second opinion on the best course of action -- team executives had been holding out hope that the injury could be dealt with effectively via therapy -- and concluded that an operation was the way to go.
Penguins officials, in Stockholm, Sweden, for two season-opening games against the Ottawa Senators this weekend, could not immediately be reached for comment. They are expected to make a formal announcement on Gonchar's surgery today.
Gonchar, 34, is coming off one of his best seasons as a pro. He had 12 goals and 53 assists in 78 games last season and received significant support in the voting for the Norris Trophy, which goes to the NHL's top defenseman.
Rookie defenseman Alex Goligoski and second-year pro Kris Letang are expected to absorb much of offensive burden Whitney and Gonchar would have carried if they were healthy. In addition, center Evgeni Malkin has moved onto the left point of the No. 1 power-play unit in training camp and figures to start there when the regular season begins.
Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com . First Published September 30, 2008 4:00 AM