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Lemieux, Kovalev Due Back Soon

November 7, 2001

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Mario Lemieux and Alexei Kovalev could return from surgery in time for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ home game next week against the New York Islanders.

The updates by coach Rick Kehoe were welcome news for the Penguins, who are expected to be without center Martin Straka for 4-to-6 months. He broke his leg against Florida Oct. 28.

Lemieux had arthroscopic hip surgery Oct. 29 and Kovalev had arthroscopic knee surgery Oct. 15.

Both players skated Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C., before the team tied the Carolina Panthers 2-2 that night.

Lemieux was expected to miss 3-to-4 weeks after his operation but believes he is ahead of schedule.

``Right now it feels like I can accelerate a little bit quicker,″ Lemieux said. ``I should be able to skate a little better now.″

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