The Penguins will be without D Sergei Gonchar for at least a month, players were told Tuesday night after a 5-1 victory at home against St. Louis. Players also were told Gonchar has at least one broken bone near his hand and wrist.
I received text messages from several people close to Gonchar, though not Penguins players, that indicated Gonchar’s wrist is broken. Those texts conveyed concern that perhaps his hand also may have been injured.
Head coach Dan Bylsma said Tuesday night that Gonchar would undergo additional testing today, an off day for the Penguins. Those tests are to determine the exact location of the broken bone(s) and severity of the injury. Afterward a prognosis for recovery will be known — again, though, players were told Tuesday night to expect Gonchar to miss at least a month.
The Penguins will update Gonchar’s status today at 12:30 p.m.
Few players could pinpoint how Gonchar was injured, though Bylsma said video footage showed him being hit awkwardly in the second period. Gonchar did not return from the midpoint of that period and played only 16-plus minutes in the game. His usual ice-time total is around 24 minutes.
Bylsma also made a point to note the “fortunate” option to dress veteran D Martin Skoula, going so far as to hint Skoula would play Friday at home against Florida. Skoula, at the end of training camp last month, has yet to play this season.
The Penguins do not practice today. When they return to practice Thursday it will be interesting to note their defensive pairings. Kris Letang played with Gonchar’s regular partner, Brooks Orpik, in the third period on Tuesday. If that pairing holds, Bylsma would have the option of playing Skoula with Mark Eaton, whose offensive skills are underrated (four goals in the 2009 playoffs). Bylsma is not adverse to a true shutdown defense pairing, as was evident last season with his reliance on Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill. Skoula and Eaton could fill that role, as Bylsma seemingly would be resistant to breaking up the solid pairing of Jay McKee and Alex Goligoski.
By the way, an extended period of time without Gonchar would leave a void at the extra defenseman spot. There was no clear winner in a training-camp battle between Nate Guenin and Deryk Engelland. Ben Lovejoy, a prospect whom the Penguins hoped could fill the seventh defenseman spot this season, is recovering from an injury dating to training camp.
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