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Race2Four: Letestu to the rescue for Pens

| Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mark Letestu was so nervous about making his NHL playoffs debut for the Penguins that he couldn't sleep Tuesday afternoon before Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series at Montreal.

Letestu was wired about his insertion into the lineup to center the Penguins' third line flanked by Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy in place of injured Jordan Staal — and inspired by the boisterous Bell Centre crowd.

"That first period was as loud a building as I ever heard," Letestu said. "You don't get that in Hershey or Binghamton. That was awesome."

Letestu played 10 games for the Penguins in the regular season, scoring his first NHL goal 47 seconds in against Buffalo in February. The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder spent most of the season at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, scoring 55 points (21 goals) in 63 games and three assists in four playoff games.

"In a good way, and it wasn't really a surprise; he handled himself in his first playoff game and you'd wondered how he would react in a building like Montreal," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He played some very good hockey for us when he was recalled this year."

Letestu was on the ice for 12:42 on 15 shifts and recorded two hits and two shots on goal, while one was blocked and two others missed the net. He was 4 of 10 on face-offs, and even took a shift with the power-play unit.

"You just try to keep it simple, not to be a hero," Letestu said. "I thought I was solid enough to make an impact on the game but not in a wrong way."

Race2Four notes

Guerin's status remains a mystery

Veteran right wing Bill Guerin did not participate in an optional practice at Bell Centre on Wednesday morning. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said he was staying with his Tuesday update on Guerin, who remains "day-to-day with an undisclosed injury." Guerin is in Montreal with the Penguins, though he has not been seen around the club. He was a surprise nonparticipant in a morning practice Tuesday and he did not play in the Penguins' 2-0 Game 3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

Light day at rinks

The Penguins and Canadiens each held optional practices, though at different facilities. Few regulars participated in either session, which for the Canadiens was held at their practice facility in suburban Montreal. With no built-in two-day period between any games in this second-round series, optional practices figure to become the norm on off-days.

Kid's in play

Center Sidney Crosby is the subject of a blow-out piece in this week's Sports Illustrated titled "Alone at the Top" by legendary hockey scribe Michael Farber. That title could double for Crosby's reach as hockey's most in-demand player. Demand from the media this postseason is so considerable that during road trips he fields questions in two waves while standing on a platform outside the Penguins' dressing room. The first wave is for television and radio reporters, the second for print journalists. Crosby is also mentioned in Sports Illustrated's cover story on controversial Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Pens promote AHL vet to front office

Longtime Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins team president Rich Hixon is the new executive director of strategic planning for the Penguins. Hixon had been with the AHL Penguins since their inception in 1999, serving as president since 2004 after five years as vice president and chief operating officer. In his new assignment he will be part of development around Consol Energy Center and youth hockey initiatives. The AHL Penguins also promoted longtime employees Greg Petorak to vice president and chief financial officer, and Brian Coe to vice president/operations.

Race2Four Quotable

"Yeah, I am ... because from what I've seen he's pretty consistent. The one thing I know is he makes game-saving stops on a regular basis and he absolutely did that (in Game 3). Fans get on him, and it's good to see a great guy get his due in a situation like that." — Penguins forward Mike Rupp, on being surprised that some fans are critical of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

"I don't really like those stats. It was a pivotal game, but Game 4 is pivotal, too." — Penguins forward Max Talbot, on his club's 9-2 record in Game 3s over the last four postseasons.

"It's been exactly what I expected. He's a big body. He's not easy to get around, but at the same time you keep challenging him time after time. Hopefully, you find a way to use your speed to get around him or you draw a penalty. That's what it's going to come down to. That's the challenge." — Penguins center Sidney Crosby, on the challenge of facing 6-foot-7 Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill.

Behind Enemy lines


The Canadiens have held Penguins center Sidney Crosby without a goal in three games and without a point in the past two contests. Crosby arrived at this second-round series with five goals and 14 points, but he has placed only three of 11 attempted shots on the net. Still, Montreal trails the best-of-seven series, 2-1, and many fans in hockey's capital city are growing concerned that Crosby cannot continue to be contained given his career playoff scoring average of 1.36 points per contest.

He said it — Sidney Crosby

"I don't want to not be creating those things and hurting us in other areas."

— By Kevin Gorman and Rob Rossi

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