Penguins notebook: Slow-starting Letang frustrated
Kris Letang is frustrated.
His primary source of dissatisfaction is an underwhelming offensive start — four goals and one assist in 16 games entering Wednesday night's game against Toronto — and lingering discomfort in a right knee that was injured late in training camp.
Letang missed the Penguins' opening nine games to rest and rehabilitate the knee, but soreness remains.
A Norris Trophy (top defenseman) finalist last season, Letang was the only defenseman to average a point per game.
He was not pleased with his removal from the Penguins' top power-play unit last week. Defenseman Paul Martin replaced him.
Letang ranked 10th among NHL defensemen in power-play points (13) last season, but he hoped to improve upon that this season to add to his credentials for inclusion on Canada's Olympic squad.
He had only three power-play points before the Penguins played the Maple Leafs.
Martin is out four to six weeks with a broken tibia, so Letang was to return to the top power-play unit against Toronto. He also was to be paired with Brooks Orpik, with whom he played throughout the 2010-11 season — the last time he had a regular defense partner.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has not said he is displeased with Letang.
“With the way the league is right now, he still is (playing against) good players and big minutes and defensive situations,” Bylsma said.
Letang had averaged 24 minutes, 42 seconds of ice time. Montreal's P.K. Subban, who won the Norris last season, averaged only eight more seconds than Letang.
However, Letang feels he has carried the puck less this season. The Penguins have switched to a neutral-zone defensive system that placed three players, usually two defensemen, behind the puck at all times.
Though he has played the past eight games with rookie Olli Maatta, Letang is miffed that his lack of a consistent partner often goes overlooked regarding public criticism that has irked him dating to the end of last season.
He has played in only four periods with Rob Scuderi (broken ankle). Scuderi was signed in July specifically to play alongside Letang.
Winger Matt D'Agostini was claimed off waivers Wednesday by the Buffalo Sabres.
Signed to a one-year (one-way) contract during the offseason, D'Agostini produced only one point in eight games for the Penguins.
Projected as a possible third-line replacement for Tyler Kennedy, D'Agostini never found consistent playing time after suffering a lower-body injury in the second week of training camp.
Forwards Jayson Megna and Chris Conner were recalled from AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Each is on his second NHL stint this season. Winger Tanner Glass (broken hand) is out three to four weeks.
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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