Letestu may play on wing after Staal's return
TAMPA, Fla. — Four goals in nine games got Mark Letestu a steel chair as a makeshift locker stall inside an auxiliary dressing room at St. Pete Times Forum.
"Panic time," he joked after a Penguins practice Sunday.
If Letestu fails to score Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, he will match his season high for consecutive games without a tally: two.
No wonder he is taking part in drills designated for wingers. With injured center Jordan Staal perhaps only a few weeks from playing and Letestu's season goal pace down to a mortal 36 — well, clearly he should exhaust all options to remain a fixture in the Penguins' lineup.
Evgeni Malkin, himself a natural center now playing on the wing, recognized the sarcasm in that last sentence. He then offered a scouting report on Letestu:
"From what I see, he is very smart, has great position every time and can score some goals because of his (positioning) and play with the puck," he said. "And he has a very good shot — no, a great shot."
Perhaps it is not too early to wonder whether Letestu has a shot to provide the Penguins something they've lacked in the salary-cap era: a player from the system to come from seemingly nowhere and become a major contributor.
Not enough games have been played to declare Letestu that (From) Nowhere Man, but he has impressed the player with whom he soon could be sharing a line.
"There are moments in a game, especially when you're watching from up top like I've been doing, where you can tell what a smart player would do as opposed to a regular player," Staal said. "He's always the smart player in those moments."
Perhaps Letestu will have as many goals this time next month as he does now (four). However, a lot can be read into him working with assistant coach Tony Granato on basic elements of playing on the wing — board work and neutral-zone positioning, specifically.
More can be read into these words from coach Dan Bylsma: "Right now, he has done a great job at center. ... If he could be an offensive player and a threat (on the wing), you may look to get him in that position when Jordan comes back. But if he continues to play center like he is right now, he may make a bid for a third-line center position and solidify that."
Seemingly the only sure thing about Letestu is that he is not a lock to be part of the plan moving forward — not that he's taking anything for granted.
"I haven't been told, 'Get ready to play wing,' " he said. "But when Jordan and Arron (Asham) get back into the lineup, there is obviously going to be some shuffling — and I'd like to still find myself somewhere near the top six."Additional Information:
Professor Talbot teaches transition
Penguins forward Max Talbot has played a center-wing hybrid since Dan Bylsma was hired in February 2009. His explanation on how that role fits within the coach's system:
» 'Puck retrieval is huge. Whoever is first in the (defensive) zone has that responsibility to help the defensemen. Down low, if you call for a switch and help the defensemen, that is going to be the job of the center.'
» 'Neutral zone is the only difference, the only transition. When we go (defenseman-to-defenseman passing), you need to support as the wing.'
» 'Wall play is a little harder (for a natural center on the wing), but it doesn't take that long to get adjusted. If you play a (penalty-killing) role, you do a lot of wall plays, so you have that experience.'
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Some of the top prospects in Penguins system to be in town for camp
- Penguins re-sign Megna, Samuelsson to 1-year deals
- Based on glowing recommendation, Pens hire Agnew as assistant
- Pens hope to reach long-term deal with Brandon Sutter
- New general manager Rutherford, Penguins in favor of short-term deals
- Penguins are saying captain Crosby’s right wrist may need surgery
- Familiar Penguins faces say goodbye via free agency
- New Penguins winger Spaling files for arbitration