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Penguins notebook: Despres fills in on defense for injured Niskanen

| Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 9:14 p.m.
Brooks Orpik is among the team leaders in blocked shots for the Penguins. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

The Penguins will be without defenseman Matt Niskanen for two-to-four weeks because of an ankle injury he suffered Sunday in Ottawa.

Niskanen was wearing a walking boot Monday. The injury is not considered season-ending.

Simon Despres filled in for Niskanen against the Islanders and played alongside defenseman Kris Letang. Despres and Letang skated together during much of the team's abbreviated training camp.

Letang has taken Despres under his wing.

“I try to help him as much as I can,” Letang said. “Everyone knows that, for defensemen, it's a different game when you get here.

“You can't really rely on your speed or your skill. You have to be smarter than the opponent. Teaching him a few things is important. I take pride in that.”

• The Penguins haven't been anemic offensively this season, but none of their goals through five games came from players on the third or fourth lines. Still, coach Dan Bylsma isn't particularly concerned by the lack of production. As long as those units are playing well defensively and bringing a physical edge to games, he can live with lapses in scoring. “I can't wait for the next two games,” Bylsma said. “After the first two, you said we won without Geno (Evgeni Malkin) and Sid (Sidney Crosby) scoring. Now they scored, and we're saying something different about getting the third- and fourth-line scoring. We're not really concerned about who's getting the goals.”

• Former Penguins defenseman Brian Strait returned to Consol Energy Center with the Islanders. Unable to ever land a job in Pittsburgh — Strait played sparingly when a number of Penguins' defensemen were injured during the past two seasons — Strait has seen his career blossom in New York. The Islanders claimed him off waivers from the Penguins the day before the regular season started. He has averaged 18 minutes of ice time.

• Left wing Eric Tangradi was a healthy scratch for the first time. Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo has been scratched in six games.

— Josh Yohe

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