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Gonchar skates Sunday; hopes to play in series opener

Sunday, 05.17.2009 / 4:35 PM / Conference Finals: Pittsburgh vs. Carolina

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Pittsburgh Penguins Playoff GearPittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma says defenseman Sergei Gonchar's availability for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Carolina on Monday night will be a game-time decision.

Gonchar returned to the ice on Wednesday for Game 7 against the Washington Capitals after missing Games 5 and 6 with an injured right knee sustained after a knee-on-knee collision with Washington's Alex Ovechkin early in Game 4. Gonchar played 15:06 in Game 7, wearing a brace that stabilized his injured knee. He assisted on center Sidney Crosby's game-opening goal, but saw little time in the third period of the Penguins' 6-2 in.

"It looks promising," said Gonchar, who missed three-quarters of the regular season due to a shoulder injury.

However, Bylsma is taking a wait-and-see attitude, and said Gonchar would be a game-time decision.

"My feeling on situations where a player is playing coming off an injury is they have to be confident that they can do their job," he said after Sunday's practice. "We don't tell them that they can do their job. The trainers don't say you've got to get out there and do their job. He has to look me in the eye and say I'm ready to go out there and play my role on this team, and I'm confident I can do that. So that's got to come from the player.

"I don't have to see him wince in pain or see him skate," Bylsma added. "He looks good out there, and if he's confident he can look the trainer in the eye and me in the eye and say he's ready to go, that's what needs to happen between now and game time."

Bylsma did say that Gonchar, who hadn't skated since Wednesday, "looked good out there today" but wanted to wait as long as possible before making a decision.

"My feelings about (Gonchar) will remain private until he makes that decision," Bylsma said. "It's one of those things that you evaluate again tomorrow morning, and we'll be ready for different scenarios depending on how good he feels and how much he can contribute in terms of minutes and on the ice. So we'll probably be dressing 12 forwards for the game, and seven (defenseman) for warmups and make our decision then."

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— Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa after scoring his 1,000th career point on Thursday night in Ottawa
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