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Pens plan for no Gonchar, look to score first

by Adam Kimelman /
WASHINGTON -- Coach Dan Bylsma said defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who suffered a right knee injury in the first period of Friday night's game, will be a game-time decision for Game 5 Saturday night at Verizon Center.

Gonchar was hurt when he collided with the Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin. The two appeared to hit knee-to-knee, with Gonchar's right leg suffering some damage. The impact of the hit spun Gonchar around in the air, and he needed help to leave the ice.

The injury occurred with about five minutes left in the first period and Gonchar did not return to the game.

"He clearly couldn't finish the game (Friday) night," said Bylsma. "We evaluated him and we continue to evaluate him. It's more or less how he's going to respond. The swelling has not been significant. It's going to be day-to-day, game-time for Sergei. He's not doing as bad as we thought. It'll be game-time as far as what our decisions are for our lineup."

Bylsma said the team has called up Alex Goligoski from their AHL team, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins -- who, interestingly enough, are in their own playoff series against the Hershey Bears, the Capitals' AHL team. Philippe Boucher, another option to replace Gonchar, has been with the team all season and last played in Game 5 of the first round against Philadelphia.

Bylsma, who has said in the past he doesn't believe in dressing seven defensemen, said that also could be an option for Game 5.

While playing without Gonchar is nothing new for the Pens -- he didn't play until mid-February due to a preseason shoulder in jury -- whatever defensemen are in the lineup will have a huge void to fill.

"It's an opportunity for other guys to step into a role they don't normally have," defenseman Brooks Orpik told "I think maybe losing him for the majority of the season was maybe good for us. We know we have the confidence we can play without him. He's definitely one of those guys you can't replace, that's for sure."

Fellow blueliner Rob Scuderi said the key will be for each player to focus on his own job and not worry about doing more than they're capable of.

"I think we all have to pick up the slack a little bit by doing our roles that much more smartly," he told "If you're a defensive guy you have to make sure you clamp down and play good defense. If you're a guy that moves the puck and creates offense, you have to do that. He's a big void in our defense, but we have to do the best we can to make up for it. He might be gone but we still want to win this series. If we want to do that we have to stay focused and stick to our roles."

When scoring first goes wrong -- One of the odder facts of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series between the Penguins and Capitals is that through four games, the team that has scored first has lost. Outside of this series, the team that has scored first in all other playoff games is 36-20 (.643 winning percentage).

Pittsburgh Penguins Playoff GearPenguins coach Dan Bylsma said regardless of what's happened before, he believes scoring first is something his team needs to do.

"We're going to try to score first tonight, that's my thoughts on that," he said. "We've made note of that. We knew about that from the first two games. I said that in Game 3 after they scored the first goal, we joked about it before the game last night. We're going to come out and try to score the first goal tonight."

Brooks Orpik didn't too much value in the stat, either.

"They always put that stat up there that the team that scores first wins whatever percentage of games, and obviously that's not the case in this series," he said. "A lot of those stats you can throw out the window."

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