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Avalanche captain Sakic out at least six weeks with herniated disc

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - Joe Sakic thought long and hard about returning for a 20th NHL season after missing 38 games following hernia surgery last year.

In late August, he declared his mind and body were ready for him to lace up his skates again, but this season hasn't gone as planned for the Colorado Avalanche's 39-year-old captain.

Sakic has been bothered by a bad back all season and on Wednesday, the team announced Sakic will be sidelined at least six weeks while receiving treatment for a herniated disc.

"He's a tremendous athlete. I know he'll do everything he can within his power to get back to being 100 per cent," Avs coach Tony Granato said. "If there's an athlete that can come back from something like this in the minimal amount of time it would be Joe."

The centre's back has bothered him all season and he hasn't played since hurting it again during his first shift in a game at Phoenix on Friday.

In a statement issued by the team, Sakic said he concurred with team doctors, who recommended he not return to the ice until mid-January.

Sakic originally strained his back in the weight room, causing him to miss a game against Minnesota on Nov. 6. He returned two days after against Nashville before being sidelined for five more games because of the back.

An infected tooth caused him to miss a game at Anaheim on Nov. 24 before he returned to the lineup Nov. 26 against St. Louis only to get hurt again two days later.

"He's a guy that knows his body probably as well as any professional athlete I've been around. When he came back he felt great, he looked great you could see how he was skating it looked like he had his jump back and the back wasn't an issue at all," Granato said. "So, when he came off the ice after the shift in Phoenix and his back tightened up again, obviously it was an injury that was more significant than the first time it happened."

Sakic had his most difficult season last year, missing 38 games following hernia surgery before returning to the lineup to help the team reach the playoffs after a one-year absence.

"It was just a frustrating year," Sakic said after signing a US$6-million, one-year deal in September. "With the injury and the rehab, I was mentally tired. At that point, I was almost ready to move on and spend time with my family. It wasn't a physical thing. Just mentally, I was drained."

Sakic says he's still year-to-year and the Canadian says he is not even considering the possibility of playing in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.



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