Penguins notebook: Letang misses 3rd straight with illness
Kris Letang missed his third consecutive game Monday night against the Ottawa Senators. The Penguins, coach Dan Bylsma said, are “uncertain” how long their top defenseman could remain out of action.
Letang sat out both games of the Penguins' trip west last week because of what the team said is an illness.
“Kris Letang continues to not feel well, and we're doing further evaluations and tests on him at this point in time,” Bylsma said after the morning skate Monday.
Asked a follow-up question if the team has any concern that Letang's ailment could be of a serious nature that could keep him out for the long-term, Bylsma answered, “We're uncertain. So we're continuing to do some tests on him.”
Letang has 10 goals and eight assists in 34 games. He missed the season's first nine games because of a knee injury and sat out 10 more games from Dec. 14 to Jan. 3 because of an elbow infection.
Letang was a Norris Trophy finalist as the NHL's top defenseman last season. He signed an eight-year, $58 million contract extension this past summer that kicks in next season.
Methot: Hit on Crosby clean
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby wasn't happy with Ottawa's Marc Methot in December because he believed the defenseman's hit to Crosby's leg was a dirty one. Right wing Pascal Dupuis was lost for the season thanks to a chain reaction from the hit.
Methot, who spoke with Dupuis on Monday, defended himself.
“I'm doing my job,” he said. “I'm being physical on one player. It's not my fault that he runs into another. It was a freak accident. I look stupid if he skates around me and scores.”
Methot said his hit wasn't below Crosby's kneecap and that one of his “specialties” is delivering clean hip checks. However, Methot said he understood that Crosby would be emotional following the loss of Dupuis.
Methot also said that hitting Crosby is a rarity.
“Easier said than done,” he said. “That's why great players are great. They're hard to hit. To be honest, I hardly ever get a lick on Sid.”
Ryan: No grudge for Bylsma
As expected, Senators winger Bobby Ryan is spending part of the upcoming NHL sabbatical in Europe but not for the reason many expected. Bylsma is partially responsible, but if Ryan holds a grudge, he's doing a good job hiding it.
Bylsma is Team USA's coach for the Olympics that begin next week in Sochi, Russia. Despite being ninth among U.S. players with 20 goals, Ryan was not selected for the team.
He didn't sound as if that had left him any more eager to show up Bylsma by showing him what he can do first-hand Monday.
“Not really, no,” Ryan said after the morning skate. “It's two points that we need more than they do, that's all. Truthfully, I forgot about (facing Bylsma) until you brought it up, so there really hasn't been any thought towards it for me.”
Ryan, who had a goal in the lone previous meeting against the Penguins this season, entered Monday with two goals in the 13 games since the U.S. roster was announced. Ryan denied there was a link between the snub and the slump.
“I just hit a funk and found a way to not put pucks in net and contribute …” Ryan said. “(But) the chances are coming back more and more for me; it's just matter of bearing down.”
Senators coach Paul MacLean agreed.
“Every player goes through their slumps,” MacLean said. “(Ryan) has got 20 (goals) and we've still got (27) games to play, so that's pretty good.”
Instead of spending mid-February chasing Olympic gold on the other side of the Atlantic, Ryan will spend it relaxing there. He won't be glued to the television to see how his countrymen do.
“There probably won't be a whole lot of coverage on the hockey where I'm going,” Ryan said. “I'll check in on the Internet, but that's about it.”
Should the Senators make the playoffs, it's not a stretch to say their season was turned around by a win over the Penguins.
Ottawa had won just 14 of its first 38 games when it hosted the Penguins two days before Christmas. A 5-0 victory that evening propelled the Senators to a 10-3-3 run before a loss at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.
“I think our game was coming around slowly around that time (anyway) … and I think we played a different Pittsburgh team that night,” MacLean said. “That didn't hurt us either, but we did play well, and we dictated a lot of that game.”
Including Dupuis, who was lost during the first period, the Penguins were without 10 injured regulars for that game (all but one of whom have returned from injury since). They had a seven-game winning streak snapped with that loss to the Senators.
Around the boards
Winger Taylor Pyatt left Monday's game after playing its first 22 seconds. He sustained an apparent lower-body injury attempting to deliver a check during the game's first shift and didn't return. ... Rookie winger Jayson Megna was somewhat of a surprise as an apparent healthy scratch for the Penguins. ... Letang and forward Andrew Ebbett were also scratches for the Penguins. Defensemen Chris Phillips (lower-body injury) and Joe Corvo and winger Matt Kassian were scratches for Ottawa. MacLean reinserted Stephane Da Costa into the lineup for Kassian after a one-game reprieve.