Avalanche star forward Sakic undergoes back surgery for herniated disc

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - Olympics? Joe Sakic might not even make it through the season.

The big question surrounding the Colorado captain and Canadian icon over the last few years has been whether Sakic would stick around long enough to play in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Now, there's concern about him making it through his 20th NHL season.

The 39-year-old centre, who broke three fingers in a snow blower accident last month, underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc on Wednesday. If his rehab goes as planned, he might be able to salvage the final month of the season.

But what then? Will the pride of Burnaby, B.C., want to come back at age 40 with an eye toward the Olympics?

Sakic almost retired after missing 38 games following hernia surgery last season, but on the eve of training camp he decided to return for another grinding campaign.

It's been cursed from the start.

Sakic originally strained his back in the weight room, causing him to miss a game against Minnesota on Nov. 6. He returned two days later against Nashville before being sidelined for five more games because of the bad back.

An infected tooth caused him to miss a game at Anaheim on Nov. 24 before he returned to the lineup Nov. 26 against St. Louis only to get hurt again two days later at Phoenix when he came off the ice during the first shift in excruciating pain.

Sakic had hoped rehab, including core strengthening exercises, would do the trick, but that plan wasn't working as well as he had hoped.

"After weeks of rehabilitation, it was determined that surgery was the safest path to a complete recovery," team doctor Andrew Parker said. "This was our best option and the surgery went as expected."

"I understand that this was the best way for me to return to the ice," Sakic said in a statement released by the team Wednesday night. "So, now my focus and goal will be to get back as soon as possible to help my teammates in the final weeks of the season."

Sakic will spend up to 10 days resting at his Denver home before beginning rehab on his surgically repaired back. He's also recovering from last month's accident that left him with three broken fingers on his left hand when he tried to clear snow from a machine at his home.

The Avalanche are missing several veteran leaders. In addition to Sakic, star Paul Stastny is out with a broken arm and Ian Laperriere (back) and Adam Foote (arm) missed the Avs' trip to Nashville this week.

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