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Engelland, Letang back on the ice

| Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Penguins could again be without three of their top six defensemen when they host the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins today at Consol Energy Center.

But there are encouraging signs that the blue line will be at full strength soon.

Defensemen Deryk Engelland and Kris Letang participated in practice Saturday at Southpointe. Neither is likely to play today, but their presence is encouraging.

"I felt pretty good today," Engelland said. "I wanted to push it a little harder than I did yesterday. No problems yet. We'll see how it feels tonight and (this morning)."

Engelland acknowledged that the Penguins' upcoming schedule likely will dictate when he returns. He hasn't played since scoring March 3 at Colorado; after today, the Penguins don't play until Thursday.

"Yeah, I'm definitely still day-to-day," Engelland said. "I don't know. That three days off could be huge. It could heal completely."

Engelland has not disclosed the nature of his lower-body injury but said he has improved.

"The strength got a lot better over the last four to five days, so I've just got to try and battle out there and push it to full motion and stuff and see how it feels," he said. "That was the longest practice I've had in a long time -- I think an hour and a half out there. It was good, a good skate out there with (Letang). We push each other out there."

Letang last played Feb. 29 when a hit to the head from Dallas' Eric Nystrom left him woozy, although the Penguins have yet to say he suffered a concussion. He reported headaches for a few days following the hit and has missed the past four games. During his absence, the Penguins' power play is 0 for 14.

Letang skated with the team because no other ice was available. Although he hasn't absorbed rough contact, that he's skating with the team at all is a positive sign.

Defenseman Paul Martin missed practice with an illness and is questionable for today.

Note: Center Sidney Crosby skated on a line with reserves Eric Tangradi and Dustin Jeffrey.

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