ShareThis Page
Penguins optimistic about Straka |

Penguins optimistic about Straka

Injured forward Martin Straka will not play in the Penguins’ regular-season opener Oct. 10. That much is certain.

But Penguins officials are hopeful that Straka will avoid back surgery and return to the lineup before the season grows old.

“I think he’ll play this year,” general manager Craig Patrick said Thursday.

“I’m optimistic,” Penguins team physician Dr. Charles Burke said. “From what we’ve seen, his type of injury would not normally require surgery.”

Straka apparently sustained a compression fracture in his vertebra, a torn ligament and perhaps other injuries in his back in a weight-training accident July 22 in his native Czech Republic. He will fly to Pittsburgh within the next few weeks to be examined by Penguins medical personnel and local spine experts. If it is determined that Straka needs surgery, he won’t play this season.

“If he had surgery, it would be six months to recover,” Patrick said. “We’re trying to avoid that. Hopefully, there’s some healing going on now. We’ll know when he gets here and we look at him.”

Straka was scheduled for surgery the day after the accident, but the Penguins wanted him to hold off. That move could pay off handsomely. Patrick said that Straka, who is at home in the Czech Republic, is walking and is not experiencing pain lately. Straka’s back is immobilized in a brace. Penguins trainer Mark Mortland spoke with Straka on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Straka wanted to come to Pittsburgh immediately to undergo an MRI and other tests.

Patrick denied the request. The Penguins want Straka to stick to the original plan of staying put for 7-8 weeks after the injury. Patrick says the torn ligament could heal on its own. Burke, who has received some X-rays from Straka’s doctors, said the torn ligament isn’t necessarily the major problem. He also said that treatments often vary from country to country.

“We don’t make as much of the ligament thing as they do (in the Czech Republic),” Burke said. “It’s a lot more complicated than just saying he has a torn ligament. The only decision we’ve made was not to have the surgery done immediately, to undergo some healing in a brace, get a bunch of opinions back here and see what happens.”

Patrick was asked if he was in disbelief when he got the news of Straka’s latest injury, when a weight machine collapsed on his back, crushing him under about 300 pounds. The injury occurred after a season in which Straka sustained a broken right tibia, a fractured orbital bone and a re-cracked tibia. He played only 13 games.

“Thinking back, it’s not disbelief, because things happen, but you just wonder, ‘When’s this going to stop?’ Patrick said.

Penguins winger Alexei Kovalev was in disbelief.

“I called him and said, ‘You gotta do something. I mean, it’s a curse around you. I mean, how many times (can) you get hurt• I mean, it’s just ridiculous. I mean, whatever you do … If I was in your place, I’d be afraid to go anywhere. I mean, just making a step I’d be afraid to get hurt,’ ” Kovalev said. “I hope he heals and gets back to the team.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.