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Penguins notebook: Sick Letang doubtful for Pens on Saturday

| Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, 8:18 p.m.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Kris Letang is sick of missing time.

He also is “sick and doubtful” to play for the Penguins against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night, coach Dan Bylsma said.

Letang, a late scratch from a win at Los Angeles on Thursday, did not practice Friday at Jobing.com Arena.

He remains with the Penguins on their Western road trip, Bylsma said, though Letang was not at the arena during practice.

Letang practiced Thursday morning and displayed no cold- or flu-like symptoms when speaking with teammates after the win over Los Angeles.

A Norris Trophy (top defenseman) finalist last season, Letang has played in only 34 games — scoring 10 goals — because of a strained right knee, an infected left elbow and this unidentified illness.

He was not available for comment per club policy on injured/ill players.

Keeping Letang, an admittedly contemplative player, in the right frame of mind will be a priority given his injury-plagued season — as indicated by Bylsma's public vote of confidence Friday.

“Kris' last game was excellent,” Bylsma said, referring to a 21-shift, plus-1 effort in a home win over Buffalo on Monday.

“Going into the trip, he was excited about putting (games like) those together. That was a really good game, where he needs to be. That was his best. I'm looking forward to getting on the plane (back to Pittsburgh) and continuing that.”

After facing the Coyotes, the Penguins face Ottawa at Consol Energy Center on Monday — one of three games next week before the Olympic break (Feb. 7-23).

The trade deadline is March 5, and rosters are frozen during the Olympics.

The Penguins are not shopping Letang, who next season will count $7.25 million against the salary cap.

On July 1, Letang can identify a list of 15 teams to which he would accept a trade, but that clause does not exist in the final year of his current deal.

Captain America

Paul Martin said Zach Parise “would have been my guess” to captain Team USA at the Winter Olympics.

Parise, a Minnesota winger, was tabbed Friday to lead the Americans by USA Hockey. American alternates are Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter and Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown.

Parise, who captained New Jersey to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, starred for Team USA at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. He tied for the team lead with four goals and eight points for the silver medalist Americans.

“He's always been a big face for USA Hockey in the way that he plays and carries himself,” said Martin, who along with Penguins teammate Brooks Orpik will play defense for Team USA in Sochi, Russia. “He's a big team guy, so I think that's why he's a good choice (to captain) our squad.”

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, at one point a close friend with Parise, will wear the “C” for Team Canada at the Winter Games.

Making a mark

Prior to practice Friday afternoon, Penguins players and coaches gathered near the benches as Phoenix-based fan Jacob Potter, a staff sergeant, re-enlisted for life with the Army.

Potter is from Hollidaysburg.

After a brief flag ceremony on the bench, Potter was greeted with a group stick-tap salute followed by a handshake from every healthy Penguins player.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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