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Pens take no issue with Letang suspension

Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011
 

ST. PAUL, Minnesota — The Penguins offered no complaint after the NHL suspended defenseman Kris Letang two games Tuesday for a boarding penalty incurred the previous night.

In the third period of the 2-1 loss at Winnipeg, Letang hit Jets left winger Alexander Burmistrov from behind. Burmistrov went into the boards — he was not injured — and Letang was assessed a minor penalty.

Tuesday, Letang had a conference-call hearing with NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan, after which the league announced the suspension, one that kept Letang from playing last night at Minnesota and will keep him out Thursday at home against Montreal. Under the league's labor agreement, Letang will forfeit $37,837.84 of his salary to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma wasn't at all critical of Letang's suspension. Bylsma said that, based on preseason directives issued by the NHL, "I wasn't real surprised they were looking at that hit."

Referring to Burmistrov, Bylsma said, "It's slightly unfortunate in that it's a player who knows he's going to be hit but allows himself to be hit. At the same time, we went aggressively into the check."

NHL general managers agreed at their meetings in March to more strictly enforce boarding.

Letang also wasn't critical of the suspension, though he maintained he meant Burmistrov no harm.

"I'm not trying to hit somebody. I'm more trying to make a play and keep the puck in," Letang said. "I think every play out there is different, and every play should be looked at differently.

Shanahan explained his decision in a video statement on NHL.com: "Letang recognizes that Burmistrov will get to the puck first, and Letang gets into an athletic defensive position. At this point, this is no longer a puck that is up for grabs, and Letang is going to play the man. In our opinion, Burmistrov's path to the puck is predictable, and there are no sudden movements just prior or simultaneous with the hit. In spite of the fact that Letang is looking at Burmistrov in the numbers, he finishes his check hard and with authority, and fails to minimize the check."

The league also considered, Shanahan said, that Letang was fined in April for a similar hit.

Even before Letang was suspended, the Penguins recalled defenseman Brian Strait from their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He joined the lineup immediately. Strait, 23, was among the Penguins' better performers and final cuts of training camp, then had a goal, three assists and a plus-6 rating in five minor-league games.

> > Sidney Crosby was engaged in practice contact with teammates and strength coach Mike Kadar back in Pittsburgh, Bylsma said without offering detail.

"There are other players on the ice skating with him," Bylsma said. "They've been going through structured practice and structured on-ice drills. I'm not entirely sure to what degree, if they're running the gauntlet."

The other players with Crosby are centers Evgeni Malkin (knee) and Dustin Jeffrey (knee) and defenseman Brooks Orpik (abdomen). All were skating, Bylsma said, and one of them could return for the game Thursday. Bylsma did not identify which one, but it will not be Crosby. Malkin is by far the likeliest of the group.

> > The team had no update on right winger Tyler Kennedy (concussion symptoms). He was examined Monday in Winnipeg by the Jets' doctors, and results were sent to Pittsburgh for further evaluation. Kennedy remained with the team.

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