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Lemieux to have surgery on hip

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Mario Lemieux, bothered by a sore hip since training camp, will have surgery Monday that will sideline him for up to a month.

Lemieux will have arthroscopic surgery that will remove long-term wear and tear damage to his hip, accumulated from many years of playing hockey, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced Sunday.

``Nobody really knew what was going to happen, but this kept coming back and coming back,'' general manager Craig Patrick said. ``You thought he was getting better, and he wasn't.

``You can't go all year long like that. You've got to get it fixed.''

The star forward, who is also the Penguins' owner, is expected to miss three or four weeks because of the injury, that first flared up during an exhibition game on Sept. 22.

He failed to respond to therapy and strengthening treatment, and recent tests revealed evidence of torn cartilage and a small bone fragment.

Lemieux missed Sunday night's game against Florida after being limited to 6 1/2 minutes the night before against Toronto. After Saturday's 4-0 loss, Lemieux said he probably needed to stay out until his hip muscle gets better.

``It might be a while this time,'' Lemieux said.

Lemieux missed two games following the season-opening loss to Colorado on Oct. 3. But the hip flexor injury that has nagged him did not substantially improve.

``All I know is he says he has pain when he does certain things,'' Patrick said.

Lemieux has scored only one goal in eight games during the worst start of his NHL career.

``He wants to play and, when you want to play, sometimes you go out and play in pain maybe when you should be resting,'' coach Rick Kehoe said.

Sunday night's game was the second of five in eight days for the Penguins, who also play Wednesday at Philadelphia, Thursday against Toronto and Saturday against Tampa Bay.

Lemieux has attempted to keep playing, Kehoe said, ``because every day it's kind of different for him.''

``When you lose a player like Mario, it's a huge, huge loss to the team,'' forward Wayne Primeau said.

This will be Lemieux's longest injury layoff since he was limited to 22 games by back surgery and back pain during the 1993-94 season, prompting him to sit out the 1994-95 season.

He returned to play the next two seasons, then retired for 44 months before returning in December.

Lemieux was virtually injury free during his comeback last season, except for a short bout with back pain in January that he blamed on returning to the ice after so long a layoff.

The Penguins' offense is still trying to make up for the offseason trade of five-time scoring champion Jaromir Jagr, plus a series of major injuries.

``You don't replace Mario. You don't replace Jagr,'' Patrick said. ``Guys are just going to have to pick it up.

``Everybody has to do it now that we know Mario is going to be out for a period of time.''

The Penguins, who are already missing injured right wing Alexei Kovalev _ out since Oct. 16 following knee surgery _ also lost leading scorer Martin Straka to a broken right leg Sunday night.

The left wing, who has nine points in 11 games, was injured when his leg stuck in the ice as he was being knocked down by Florida's Lance Ward about seven minutes into the second period.
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