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Notebook: Letang to take place on blue line next season

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Keith Barnes
Saturday, Jan. 6, 2007
 

• Sometime next season, Kristopher Letang will take the spot on the Penguins blue line reserved for him when the organization made him its second round draft pick in 2005. He showed why he'll be headed for the NHL next season in the title game of the World Junior Championships on Friday in Leskand, Sweden. Letang assisted on Bryan Little's power-play goal at 17:29 of the first period to help Canada to a 4-2 win over Russia. He was also a force defensively, breaking up several rushes, killing penalties and dishing out several hits. Letang finished the tournament with six assists in six games and will soon return to Val d'Or of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Because the Penguins sent him back to his junior team after seven NHL games, he must spend the rest of the season in junior hockey and cannot return to the team this season.

• Rookie center Jordan Staal had a vested interest in Team Canada because his brother, Marc, was playing for the team, but there was another reason besides national pride -- he was eligible to play for the team. An 18-year-old, Staal and Sidney Crosby, 19, were eligible to participate this year. Staal, however, had no regrets about being in the Penguins' locker room rather than playing for his country. "I'm just really glad to be here," Staal said. "I know I never got the chance to play for them, which is a little bit of a disappointment, but any other player would rather be here."

• Ronald Petrovicky was a healthy scratch in the Penguins' last four games and 9 of 10 before replacing center Chris Thorburn in the lineup against Buffalo. "As a hockey player, you want to play hockey and be a part of the team," Petrovicky said. "That's part of it, it comes with it, and you've just got to be patient and wait for your chance to get back in." Thorburn played 8 minutes, 26 seconds in the 3-0 win Tuesday over Carolina, the most ice time he'd seen since playing 10:56 in an 8-4 win over Philadelphia.

Digits

113 -- Number of man games the Penguins have lost to injury this season, compared with 114 after 39 games this past season.

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