Gonchar to miss season opener

Left shoulder said to be dislocated

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The diagnosis finally is in for Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar. The prognosis will take a bit longer.

Gonchar got a dislocated left shoulder when he was hit by Tampa Bay winger David Koci in an exhibition game Saturday night at Mellon Arena.

General manager Ray Shero said it is premature to speculate on when Gonchar might be able to play, and that no decision has been made on whether surgery will be performed.

"'Indefinite' is really the way to put it, because we don't know," Shero said. "I don't think we're going to know more maybe until next week, when he has a chance to see some other doctors, get some other opinions about what avenues he can take for getting better."

Gonchar, who already has begun his rehabilitation, is the second Penguins defenseman who will be out of the lineup when the regular season begins Oct. 4. Ryan Whitney, recovering from foot surgery, is not expected to play until December.

"I don't think you can replace a player like Gonchar or Whitney," coach Michel Therrien said. "Those are top players in this league. But it's an opportunity for our young players to prove themselves, that they belong in the NHL."

Specifically, the injuries to Whitney and Gonchar could translate to increased offensive responsibilities for Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski.

"We like what we've seen of Alex, but, at the same time, it's early," Shero said.

Goligoski said he is "a lot more comfortable at this level than I had been before," but acknowledged that losing Whitney and Gonchar will test the Penguins' defensive depth.

"Obviously, they are unbelievable hockey players and they're definitely going to be missed, but the idea is to try to 'hold serve' until they get back," he said. "We have a lot of defensemen who can play in the NHL."



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