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Defenseman Letang ready to return to lineup for Penguins

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012

Defenseman Kris Letang is ready to return to the lineup for the first time in nearly two months, and he could be on the ice Thursday night against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Coach Dan Bylsma sounded hopeful Wednesday about Letang, who hasn't played since sustaining a concussion when he took an elbow to the head Nov. 26 in Montreal.

"There is a chance for Kris (Thursday) ... and the remaining games before going into the (All-Star) break (Jan. 29)," Bylsma said. "It's how he feels and symptom-related, and he has been feeling good."

Letang, who participated in his second practice in as many days Wednesday at Consol Energy Center, made the trip to New York City and will skate with the team Thursday.

"It's coach's decision," Letang said of his return. "I know I am ready to go. I have been resting. I have been doing some treatment. I am comfortable. Otherwise I wouldn't be on the ice."

> > Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is in midst of the third-longest, games-played streak of his career (18 consecutive appearances, 16 starts), but he said he would have no trouble playing all three games in the next four days. After leaving New York City on Thursday, the Penguins are home Friday against the Montreal Canadiens and Sunday against the Washington Capitals.

"I'm not 80 (years old) yet," he said. "I feel fine. Whatever the coach wants me to do, I'll do."

The only longer streaks of his career occurred during the 2008-09 season, when he played in 20 consecutive games from Dec. 18-Jan. 30, missed one game and played in 19 more in a row through March 14. He also appeared in 17 consecutive games late last season (Jan. 22-March 2).

During his current streak, Fleury is 9-7, with a 2.38 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage.

> > Since recovering from a hamstring injury and an illness, defenseman Paul Martin has played his best hockey of the season over the past four games, Bylsma said.

"He is playing really aggressively, very good defense, his puck execution is the best it's been all year in terms of going back for pucks and coming out of the (defensive) zone," he said. "It has been a big bonus for our defense with (Zbynek Michalek) back there and Brooks Orpik playing really, really well."

> > Evgeni Malkin (maintenance day) and Arron Asham (illness) were the only players to miss practice Wednesday.

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