Defenseman Letang appears ready to return to Penguins' lineup
By Josh Yohe
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 6:42 p.m.
The Penguins rarely make it public when an injured player is about to return.
A look at Wednesday's workout at Southpointe, however, made it pretty clear defenseman Kris Letang is likely to play Friday against the New York Islanders.
“I felt pretty good out there,” Letang said. “That was the main concern about the injury, making sure I was 100 percent. I didn't want to take any chances coming back.”
Two things suggested Letang will play when the Penguins host the Islanders on Friday:
• Letang worked on the top power-play unit with forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz, along with defenseman Paul Martin. In previous years, injured players such as Crosby, Malkin and Letang have started working on the first power play only when their returns were imminent.
• Letang skated with defenseman Rob Scuderi, whom the Penguins signed this summer with the intention of being paired with Letang. Previously, Letang was skating in practice with defensemen not regularly in the lineup.
The Penguins have been more explosive with Letang in the lineup. He was the only defenseman in the league to average more than a point per game last season, compiling 38 points in 35 games of the shortened season, which he missed a portion of because of an injury. Letang has 130 points in 168 games the past three seasons.
“He's obviously a pretty special player,” Crosby said.
Crosby is eager to see Letang move the puck up the ice, especially on the power play. He said few players have Letang's agility and puck-carrying skills.
“He definitely makes an impact out there,” Crosby said. “He can join the rush quickly, and that's a strength. There are a lot of guys who know how to make that first pass, but not a lot of guys have that ability to join the rush like he does.”
Scuderi said he believes Letang's return will have a positive impact on the team, especially for defenseman who have been sharing the power-play and penalty-killing responsibilities that contribute to Letang playing nearly 30 minutes per game some nights.
“I think it will make things easier, having him back,” Scuderi said. “He does a little bit of everything out there, so I think the load will be lighter on all of us.”
Scuderi and Letang didn't play together during Scuderi's first stint with the Penguins. They played full seasons together in 2007 and 2008 before Scuderi left to play for the Los Angeles Kings.
Still, the veteran defenseman said he doesn't believe it will take long for the duo to thrive. Scuderi played with Drew Doughty, a player with similar skills to Letang, in Los Angeles.
“We had a good preseason working on things together,” Scuderi said of Letang. “We were starting to feel pretty good. Unfortunately, he was injured. It may take a few shifts or a few periods to jell again, but I'm confident that it will work.”
So is Letang.
The 26-year-old, who signed an eight-year, $58 million extension in July, has been patient while dealing with the injury to his right knee. The Penguins' new, more conservative system, which theoretically doesn't mesh with his aggressive style, does not faze him.
“It will be fine,” he said. “I want to be aggressive, and I can keep doing that. Everyone has to buy into a system to make it work. I feel good about everything.”
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins players are not out looking for fights
- Penguins’ Orpik out; Neal to have phone hearing
- Rossi: Penguins’ Orpik among select NHLers going without gluten
- Penguins’ Orpik taken off ice on stretcher in loss to Bruins
- Baby Penguins notebook: Goaltenders find their places in system
- Penguins notebook: Scuderi could practice within a week
- Penguins notebook: Top brass present to salute Guerin
- Penguins notebook: Malkin only No. 2 star for November
- Ex-Penguins winger Kennedy ‘emotional’ about return
- Penguins notebook: Sill thrives on penalty kill
- Penguins have never been better on power play