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Penguins notebook: Defenseman Letang could make return later this week

| Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 8:48 p.m.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Defenseman Kris Letang's recovery from toe and groin injuries is taking longer than expected.

Letang has played in one game since injuring his groin March 17 against Boston.

After Letang broke a toe against Montreal on March 26, the Penguins announced he would miss seven to 10 days.

He has been out two weeks.

Letang said he hasn't had a setback but is making sure the injury is completely mended before he returns.

“I feel fine. It's good to be back practicing,” he said. “I want to make sure I'm 100 percent.”

The Penguins play in Tampa on Thursday and at Florida on Saturday. Letang said he could return during one of those games if he “feels comfortable.”

Letang participated in Tuesday's morning skate at PNC Arena and remained on the ice for 20 minutes afterward for a workout with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar.

• The Hurricanes have plummeted down the Eastern Conference standings after leading the Southeast Division at the midway point. Since an injury to goaltender Cam Ward, Carolina has struggled. Entering Tuesday's game, the Hurricanes had dropped 12 of their previous 13 games. Former Carolina forward Jussi Jokinen, now with the Penguins, said the Hurricanes entered the season believing they would be successful. Standouts like Eric Staal, Jordan Staal and Alex Semin gave the Hurricanes the feel of a contender. “Obviously there's not much confidence in that locker room right now,” Jokinen said. “There's a lot of frustration.”

• The Penguins played without healthy scratches Simon Despres, Dustin Jeffrey and Joe Vitale. They also were without Sidney Crosby (broken jaw), James Neal (concussion), Letang and Paul Martin (broken bone in hand.)

• Carolina played without defenseman Joni Pitkanen, right wing Patrick Dwyer and defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron.

• Defenseman Deryk Engelland fought for the sixth time this season when he dropped the gloves early in the first period with Carolina's Kevin Westgarth. Engelland leads the Penguins in fighting majors, with one more than left wing Tanner Glass.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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