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Pens' Kasparaitis Gone For '99

This time, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Darius Kasparaitis could not avoid the knife.

Kasparaitis announced before tonight's game against the Dallas Stars that he will undergo season-ending surgery on his ailing knee, perhaps as early as next week.

"I'll be out for the season," he said. "First of all, my knee condition right now, it's still swollen. It's not stable. To add more damage to my knee is not good. I'm still young and I can rehab and come back next year, healthy, ready to play again."

Kasparaitis, 26, was carried from the ice midway through the second period of a 2-2 tie against Edmonton on March 5. He has not played since, and an MRI revealed what the team described as "additional damage" to the knee.

The Lithuanian native tried to rehabilitate his knee, as he did after a preseason injury. Originally expected to undergo surgery that would sideline him for most of the campaign, he opted for rehabilitation and missed only eight games, returning to the lineup at the end of October.

Unlike the initial ailment, however, this injury did not respond.

"Every day I felt a little better, like I did in September," he said tonight. "I got in 48 games. (But it's) best not to take more chances. The rehab takes six or seven months. That should make me ready in October."

The 5-11, 209-pound Kasparaitis has one goal, four assists and 70 penalty minutes in 48 games.

The Penguins also are without defensemen Kevin Hatcher, Jeff Serowik, Victor Ignatjev and Maxim Galanov. Hatcher is expected to remain sidelined for another 10 days with a broken foot, Serowik is out indefinitely due to a concussion, Ignatjev underwent shoulder surgery on December 3 and Galanov has a separated shoulder.

Pittsburgh has won its last two games and is tied with Philadelphia for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 77 points. The Penguins are two points behind Toronto and two ahead of Buffalo.

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