<
>

Palffy retires; reportedly because of shoulder injury

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins right wing
Zigmund Palffy
retired Wednesday, leaving the team without its second leading
scorer and another question mark in a puzzling, disappointing
season.

Palffy wasn't at a news conference held by general manager Craig
Patrick during the team's practice. Patrick wouldn't comment on a
Slovak newspaper report that Palffy retired because of a lingering
shoulder injury.

"No, I'm not going to talk about our discussion," Patrick
said, saying Palffy cited only "personal reasons." Palffy told
Patrick of his decision Tuesday morning. They agreed not to
announce it until Wednesday because Patrick hoped Palffy would
reconsider.

Patrick said the Penguins had no concerns about Palffy's health
when the team signed him to a three-year, $13.5 million contract in
August.

"We didn't sense that there was any problems with the
shoulder," Patrick said. "He passed the physical."

Patrick said he didn't see the retirement coming.

"I was surprised," Patrick said. "He came in, he closed the
door. It became pretty apparent once he started [talking] that he
was heading down that path."

The 33-year-old Palffy was injured while playing for the Los
Angeles Kings at Anaheim in January 2004. He had reconstructive
surgery on his right shoulder twice, but the problems persisted.

The shoulder injury led to his decision to retire, he told the
Sport daily, a Slovak newspaper.

"I have talked to my doctor and he did not recommend a third
operation," Palffy told the newspaper.

Palffy's agent, Paul Kraus, didn't immediately return calls from
The Associated Press.

Earlier this year, Palffy retired from the Slovak national team
ahead of the Turin Olympics.

Palffy had 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists) in 42 games with the
Penguins, but all 11 points in his last 11 games were assists. He
hadn't scored a goal since Dec. 16 against Buffalo, Michel
Therrien's first game as coach.

"It's been tough on him the last 10 to 15 games," said rookie
Sidney Crosby, Palffy's linemate and the team's leading scorer. "I
don't know if he's ever gone that long without scoring one."

Palffy had 329 goals and 384 assists in 684 games in 12 NHL
seasons with the New York Islanders, the Kings and Penguins,
scoring 40 or more goals three times with New York.

Therrien, who replaced coach Eddie Olczyk, said he tried to talk
Palffy out of retiring.

"It's a tough decision for him but we have to respect his
decision," Therrien said. "He was not playing the way he wished
to play and he's not getting any younger."

Palffy is the second free agent the Penguins have lost this
season. Goaltender Jocelyn Thibault was expected to miss the rest
of the season because of hip surgery.

Defenseman Sergei Gonchar is another free agent who has played
below expectations. Gonchar, who signed a five-year, $25 million
contract in August, was picked up after the Penguins acquired the
right to choose Crosby in the draft.

Gonchar has 22 points in 43 games, after averaging 59 points
over the past five seasons.

The Penguins have the second-worst record in the NHL, 11-26-9.
They are mired in a seven-game losing streak, 19 points out of a
playoff spot with 36 games to play.

"It's been an interesting year for sure, there's no doubt about
that," Patrick said. "It's the new NHL and it hasn't unfolded as
we expected, but there's still a half season left and we'll see how
it goes the rest of the way."

Patrick wasn't immediately sure who would take Palffy's roster
spot when the Penguins host the New York Rangers on Thursday.

Hours after Palffy retired, the Penguins traded a sixth-round
draft pick to Florida for 6-foot-6 defenseman Eric Cairns, who
could provide a physical presence to help protect Crosby.

Crosby, the team's leading scorer, has been increasingly targeted for physical play by opponents in recent weeks and now leads the Penguins in penalty minutes.