Penguins notebook: Scuderi back to bolster Pens' blue line
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Rob Scuderi's return provided the Penguins a different look Sunday night.
They dressed two top-four defensemen against Columbus at Nationwide Arena. That had not happened in the previous seven games.
Scuderi, who was paired with Robert Bortuzzo against the Blue Jackets, missed 29 consecutive games because of a broken ankle that required surgery. He was injured Oct. 26.
Scuderi replaced Simon Despres in the lineup. A healthy scratch, Despres played in 15 consecutive games, recording four assists and a plus-2 rating in those contests.
The Penguins still have played only four periods — out of 41 games — with each of their top-four defensemen in the lineup. That group consists of Scuderi, Brooks Orpik, who Sunday night played in a second consecutive game after missing eight in a row with a concussion, Paul Martin and Kris Letang. Martin (tibia) has not resumed skating since he was injured Nov. 25.
The Penguins have played the past 16 games with at least two top-four defensemen out of the lineup.
Free range for Letang
Letang no longer is wearing an apparatus designed to limit his arm mobility, coach Dan Bylsma said Sunday.
Letang missed an eighth consecutive game — 17th overall — Sunday.
He underwent a medical procedure to disinfect an elbow wound in mid-December. His arm was wrapped in protective casing to limit mobility so the wound could heal.
Letang is not with the Penguins on their three-game road trip, but he has skated twice on his own in Pittsburgh, Bylsma said.
The Penguins have not identified a date for Letang's return, though Bylsma has said it would happen “sometime” after the NHL's three-day Christmas break.
Letang's arm became infected within hours after a win over New Jersey on Dec. 13.
A Norris Trophy (top defenseman) finalist last season, Letang missed the Penguins' first nine games because of a sprained right knee.
Center Evgeni Malkin reiterated Sunday that he hopes to participate fully in a practice Monday in Newark, N.J.
Malkin (left leg) has missed seven consecutive games and is awaiting contact clearance from Penguins physicians.
He accompanied the Penguins on this road trip with the expectation of playing Tuesday at New Jersey. Malkin was injured upon crashing backward into the end-zone boards in the Penguins' win at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 14.
Malkin was tied for fifth in the NHL with 41 points before games Sunday. He has played nine fewer games than league leader and fellow Penguins center Sidney Crosby.