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Pens' Letang is staying fresh in brutal stretch

| Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011

Kris Letang, like many notable Penguins, did not practice Wednesday, which is not to suggest he took the day off.

Trainers treated a few of his bruises that come with playing defense in the NHL. Letang also studied video of his latest gem of a performance — an assist, a plus-3 rating, two hits and a blocked shot in the 25 minutes, 48 seconds he played Tuesday night in a 4-2 win over Florida.

However, most important Wednesday, Letang had his legs stretched and massaged.

The regular season is only a week old and Letang is just 24, but keeping him fresh is a priority for coach Dan Bylsma, as the Penguins continue a wicked October schedule.

"Typically, at the beginning of the year, you're still getting work in, (but) we've got 13 games with very little practice time," Bylsma said. "Rest and practice time is more like you'd see at the end of the year right now."

Letang, considered by some a Norris Trophy favorite this season, has clearly established himself as the Penguins' No. 1 defenseman. Working on the left side because of Brooks Orpik's abdominal injury, his six points lead the club, as does his average ice time of 26:48.

That average is nearly two minutes too much.

"I think around 25 is a good number," Letang said. "It allows you to stay fresh all game."

To stay fresh between games, Letang has maintained a "healthy diet." He has eliminated unnecessary sugars and is eating more fish than at any point in his life.

He produced only nine points after Jan. 12 last season, a finish as frustrating as the start that earned him a first All-Star Game selection was strong.

That recent history might convince a player to steady his pace in the new season's opening months.

"When you're tired, you have to learn when it's time to make a safe play, like going off the wall instead of trying to do too much," he said. "But I don't want to conserve. I never want to manage my energy."

Hockey Day in Pittsburgh: The Trib's weekly peek at the Penguins and around the NHL

Brutal beginning

By Wednesday, the Penguins will have played eight games in 13 nights. Excluding the four teams that began the season in Europe, here a breakdown of other clubs' schedules over the same span:

6 games: 10 teams

5 games: 9 teams

4 games: 6 teams


Three to watch

Opposing players to keep an eye on during the next week:

Nathan Gerbe — Sabres center

Three of his 16 goals were winners last season.

Evander Kane — Jets left wing

He is an emerging force, with 33 goals before his 20th birthday.

Dany Heatley — Wild right wing

In 27 games against the Penguins, he has 20 goals.

Point shots

Developments from around the NHL:

> > Nothing is official, but all signs are pointing east for the Detroit Red Wings, who likely will swap conferences with the Winnipeg Jets next season. (Bob McKenzie, TSN)

> > Coyotes center Kyle Turris wants to be traded and is willing to sign a reasonable contact with another team, perhaps the Calgary Flames. (Elliotte Friedman, Canadian Broadcasting Company)

> > The Sabres' redesigned home dressing room has a distinctively Penguins feel, with an illuminated ceiling logo, a circular design and a wall that pays homage to the franchise's all-time greats. (John Vogl, Buffalo News)


Penguins right wing Tyler Kennedy shares thoughts on ...

> > His goal last Saturday at Calgary:

"I probably still would have shot earlier (last season), but I probably would have had more of a game plan going in as opposed to keeping an open mind like I did."

> > His maturity as a shooter:

"Maybe it comes with confidence, getting a little bit more power-play time last season. Maybe I've learned to be a little bit more selective when I shoot."

> > His personal expectations for this season:

"I want to be a leader, do the right things, and my mindset is to show by example."

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