Pittsburgh Penguins stars Mario Lemieux will have back surgery Wednesday but probably will be ready by the start of this season, the team's doctor said yesterday.
Team physician Charles Burke said the recovery period for the procedure -- to remove a herniated disk -- should be about six to 12 weeks and there is a 90 percent chance Lemieux will be able to play opening night.
"Despite the delicacy of this surgery, the complications are very small and very rare," Burke said. "We do not expect any difficulties."
Lemieux, 24, was bothered by back problems throughout last season. He wore a brace and was excused from most practice sessions but continued to play until Feb. 14, when he left a game against the New York Rangers, ending his 46-game scoring streak.
After missing 21 games, Lemieux returned for Pittsburgh's last game on March 31 and scored a goal in a 3-2 overtime loss that knocked the Penguins out of the playoffs.
Doctors considered but rejected surgery in February, hoping therapy would allow Lemieux to return during the season. But a recent increase in pain prompted the current decision. . . .
The Penguins are interested in signing free agent center Bryan Trottier, the NHL's seventh all-time leading scorer, who cleared waivers after being released by the New York Islanders.
Penguins General Manager Craig Patrick said the team wants to discuss a "short-term situation" with Trottier, who turns 34 next week. "He's a real character guy."
Trottier helped the Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup championships in 1980-83, had six 100-point seasons and led the NHL in scoring in 1978-79 with 134 points. . . .
The New York Rangers acquired right wings Jody Hull from Hartford and Ray Sheppard from Buffalo in two NHL deals.
In exchange for Hull, New York sent center Carey Wilson and future considerations to the Whalers. The Rangers paid an undisclosed amount of cash for Sheppard, 24, who scored 38 goals in the '87-88 season and was runner-up in voting for rookie of the year. Hull, 21, split last season between Hartford and the Whalers' AHL farm club in Binghamton. He was the Whalers' No. 1 pick in the 1987 entry draft.
Wilson, 28, missed 39 games last season because of injuries.