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Penguins notebook: Despres could play with Letang in opener

| Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, 8:34 p.m.

There are conflicting messages regarding the immediate future of Simon Despres, the Penguins' top defensive prospect.

He is the only defenseman in camp who does not need to clear waivers for an AHL assignment, and before last weekend, there were indications management favored him beginning the season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

However, Despres practiced with top defenseman Kris Letang on Monday at Consol Energy Center, and coach Dan Bylsma said there was a chance those two French Canadians will play together at Philadelphia in the regular-season opener Saturday.

Monday did not mark the first time Bylsma has publicly suggested a Letang-Despres pairing. He alluded to it twice this summer.

General manager Ray Shero has not ruled out carrying eight defensemen into the regular season. If Despres is among that group, it is likely they would risk losing either Robert Bortuzzo or Brian Strait.

The Penguins' regular-season roster must be set by 3 p.m. Friday.

• Evgeni Malkin practiced Monday, centering a line with Eric Tangradi to his left and James Neal to his right. Malkin, citing fatigue, declined comment through a member of the media relations staff. He is expected to speak after practice Tuesday. Malkin, the reigning MVP and scoring champion, did not arrive in Pittsburgh until Sunday night, said Ushakov Genmandy, his longtime Russian advisor. Malkin spent last week in Moscow, his offseason home, trying to recover from his 37 games with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League. Malkin spent the extra days in Moscow so that he would be as rested as possible for the start of the NHL season, Genmandy said. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby matter-of-factly assessed Malkin's first practice with teammates. “Really good,” Crosby said. “He looks like he's been playing for half a year.”

• Practice Monday stretched from around noon to about 3 p.m., though players were not on the ice for that entire time, so the Penguins were not in violation of any labor contract rules.

• The NHL Center Ice TV package will cost $49.99 next season. It is free from Jan. 19 to Jan. 31.

— Rob Rossi

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