Penguins’ Gonchar practices with the team and may play in Game 7

CANONSBURG, Pa. – Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Sergei Gonchar has practiced for the first time since injuring his right knee during a collision with Alex Ovechkin and hopes to play in Wednesday’s Game 7 against Washington.

Gonchar says it will be a game-time decision whether he takes the ice for the series finale.

The defenceman expected to be out for at least the rest of the series after being injured by a knee-to-knee hit instigated by Ovechkin in Game 4 of the Penguins-Capitals series on Friday night.

The injury wasn’t as bad as initially feared, and Gonchar was among a handful of Penguins players taking part in an optional skate Tuesday. The Penguins have split the two games with Washington since their top defenseman was hurt.

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“It’s a first step,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “We’ll see how he reacts and feels tomorrow (Wednesday) and go from there. A player has to be convinced he wants to be in there.

“It looked good today. It’s promising.”

The Penguins are not required by NHL rules to disclose the exact nature of Gonchar’s injury.

Gonchar is not saying if he thought the hit by Ovechkin, his former Russian Olympic teammate, was dirty or designed to injure.

“I have my own opinion, but I’m not going to comment on that,” Gonchar said.