Penguins notebook: Letang, Niskanen close to returning

| Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, 5:45 p.m.

The Penguins defensive core is closer to getting healthy.

Although defensemen Kris Letang (lower-body injury) and Matt Niskanen (ankle injury) are unlikely to play Wednesday at Consol Energy Center against the Ottawa Senators, both are moving nearer to returning.

Letang and Niskanen made it through Tuesday's practice unscathed. Both defensemen also skated Monday while the rest of the team rested.

“It felt pretty good,” Letang said. “It was the first time I've practiced with the team (since the injury), so I had a chance to battle in the corner. I stayed later to do extra. It felt pretty good.”

Letang confirmed that he suffered the injury Feb. 3 in Washington. He played two nights later against the Islanders but has missed the previous three games.

Coach Dan Bylsma said Tuesday's practice was “pretty stressful on a lower-body injury, and he did pretty well.”

Letang did not rule out playing against the Senators but said he wouldn't be sure of his status until Wednesday morning. His injury did not feel good Sunday but significantly improved in 48 hours.

“We'll talk right now and tomorrow morning (with doctors) after the morning skate,” Letang said.

Niskanen has been dealing with an ankle injury since Jan. 26. He has missed 17 days after being projected to miss 14 to 28 days.

Niskanen doesn't seem likely to play against the Senators but is progressing. He made it clear that he won't return to the lineup until he feels 100 percent.

“It doesn't do any good to come back and be hobbling around out there,” he said. “I don't want to be a liability.”

• While practicing their power play with a two-man advantage, the Penguins added a new wrinkle. Right wing Tyler Kennedy played in the left circle on the top unit. Kennedy has struggled this season, scoring one goal and one assist in 13 games. He hasn't had a goal in 11 games.

• The Penguins practiced for more than an hour at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday after enjoying a day off Monday.

— Josh Yohe

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