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Penguins notebook: Despres could see more time on 'D' with Letang

| Monday, March 4, 2013, 11:39 a.m.
Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson pushes Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, causing him to go out of control into the boards in the third period on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, at Consol Energy Center. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review file

The Penguins were 12-4 with defenseman Simon Despres in the lineup entering Monday's game against Tampa Bay.

Despres has recorded six points in 16 games and entered the game leading all Penguins defensemen with a plus-8 rating.

Given those numbers — and coach Dan Bylsma's assessment of Despres' recent play — the youngster's days of being a healthy scratch might end. And he might start seeing more time with defenseman Kris Letang.

Bylsma said Despres' performance Saturday in Montreal may have been his best in the NHL. Despres set up center Brandon Sutter's overtime game-winner, was sound defensively and continued his trend of playing a more physical game.

Despres and Letang played together at times during the first six weeks of the season.

Seeing the ups and downs of Despres' first lengthy stint in the NHL reminds Bylsma of a young Letang.

“It was really helpful for Simon to play with Kris,” Bylsma said.

• Defenseman Paul Martin remains out with an injury that Bylsma called “day-to-day.” There is a chance that Martin could return to the lineup when the Penguins play Thursday in Philadelphia.

• Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was incensed with officials early in the third period when a blindside hit from Tampa Bay captain Vinny Lecavalier was not penalized. Lecavalier said the hit was essentially an accident. “I saw him at the last second,” Lecavalier said. “I was going for the puck. It was kind of a collision. He didn't see me. I didn't see him. It was a heavy hit or both of us. We kind of surprised each other, I think.”

• Don't expect left wing Beau Bennett to remain in Wilkes-Barre. In fact, he will probably be back with the Penguins by Tuesday. The organization sent Bennett to the AHL on Monday, but it was a procedural move. Right wing Zach Boychuk was placed on waivers on the same day that center Evgeni Malkin was activated. Because Boychuk's status was unknown Monday afternoon, the team needed to clear a roster spot.

• Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, wingers James Neal, Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, and defenseman Deryk Engelland welcomed Monday's student rush line with pizza. Bylsma joined his players by greeting fans who waited for 500 available tickets.

• Former Penguins left wing Ryan Malone remained out of Tampa Bay's lineup with a lower-body injury. He is expected to return within a week.

— Josh Yohe

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