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Penguins Notebook: Gonchar Hurt

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
(Click here for Gonchar update)

Gonchar Hurt:
Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar left Tuesday night’s game against the Blues in the second period with an unspecified injury after landing awkwardly following a collision with a Blues’ player. Head coach Dan Bylsma had the following update on Gonchar’s status:

“We are going to evaluate him again (Wednesday) morning … We will see in the afternoon what he has.”

The Penguins played the first 56 games of last season without Gonchar, posting a record of 27-24-5.

Bylsma said Kris Letang will move up to the top power-play unit next to Alex Goligoski if Gonchar has to miss any action.

Veteran Depth: If Gonchar misses Friday night’s showdown with the Florida Panthers at Mellon Arena veteran defenseman Martin Skoula, the lone player on the roster yet to appear in a game in ’09-10, would take his place. Bylsma talked after the Blues game about feeling comfortable turning to a player with a resume such as Skoula’s.

“We have had the unfortunate circumstance of having to sit out a player who has played over 700 NHL games and played 75-plus games for many seasons. It looks like most likely he is going to get a chance to play in the next game. That’s a fortunate thing to put a guy like that into the lineup.”

While the Penguins struggled at the outset of last season playing without Gonchar, who was recovering from a shoulder injury, Bylsma believes his team is up to the challenge this time.

“Our game, our execution, is not predicated by one player or around one player. Certainly Sergei Gonchar is a very good player, but even tonight you see the execution by guys like Jay McKee who add to how we play and how fast we play.

“If we do miss him, I think we are going to play a similar style and a similar way.”

Quick Start: The Penguins once again hoisted an onslaught attack against their opposition, registering the first 10 shots of the game, outshooting the Blues by a margin of 20-3 after the first period.

While getting off to such hot starts has been a trademark for the Penguins in the early going, their head coach was especially pleased with their performance against St. Louis.

“We have won hockey games, but not in this fashion. We talk about winning a game where we dictate the pace and force the team to play at our pace and deal with our speed in the offensive zone…20 shots in the first, 40 after two, that is the kind of thing when you force teams to play like that it’s difficult to play at that speed.

“From a coaching standpoint, that was our best team game in terms of setting the pace and standard for the game.”

Hockey Fights Cancer: The Penguins celebrated “Hockey Fights Cancer Night” Tuesday at Mellon Arena. It was part of the league’s month-long effort to raise money and promote the NHL’s “Hockey Fights Cancer” initiative.

Penguin wives and girlfriends passed out pink carnations to fans at select gates while UPMC Medical Centers had tables set up to accept donations. Fans who donated were eligible to win autographed Penguin memorabilia.

All fans in attendance received a “Hockey Fights Cancer” rally towel sponsored by UPMC Medical Centers.

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