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Penguins notebook: Centers drawing attention

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Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, 10:33 p.m.

TAMPA — Sidney Crosby is again threatening to do some serious damage during an NHL season.

A 103-point pace is impressive, but not compared to the 2,132 faceoffs he was on target to take as of Saturday.

Two years ago, when an 82-game regular season was last staged, Ottawa's Jason Spezza paced players with 1,700 faceoffs.

The Penguins took 4,957 draws that season. They were on a 5,453 pace before facing the Lightning at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

That would represent a lot of low work near ice level. The Penguins were second in the NHL at 59.3 percent on faceoffs as of Saturday.

“Now, with our team the way it stands, we have three guys … who can be really strong,” coach Dan Bylsma said before the Penguins played the Lightning at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Those guys are Crosby (61 of 104, 58.6 percent), Brandon Sutter (28 of 49, 57.1 percent) and Joe Vitale (26 of 39, 66.7 percent). Even Evgeni Malkin, who has never finished at 48 percent on draws, had gone 23 of 41 for a 56.1-percent success.

Injuries update

Right winger Matt D'Agostini (lower-body injury) remains on target to resume practicing either Wednesday or Friday, Bylsma said.

D'Agostini, out since mid-September, skated with a small group of teammates Saturday morning. Bylsma sacked the regular game-day skate after the Penguins' loss at Florida on Friday.

Defenseman Kris Letang (lower body) also worked out Saturday morning, and he again took contact. There remains no set date for Letang to play.

Right winger James Neal (upper body) is not on the trip and remains week-to-week.

Another option

Defenseman Olli Maatta played in his fifth game on Saturday. He can play in no more than nine before this season would count as the first on his entry-level contract.

A junior player cannot play in the minors.

Maatta, 19, could play in the SM-Liiga, the top league in his native Finland. He would need permission from London, his junior club.

Even though Maatta could play against older players in SM-Liiga, Penguins management favors him with London, a perennial Memorial Cup contender, if he does not stick in the NHL.

Around the boards

Defenseman Deryk Engelland played for the first time against Tampa Bay. He replaced Robert Bortuzzo in the Penguins' lineup.

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