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Stadium Series notebook: Penguins' Letang out against Flyers

| Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, 12:00 p.m.
The Penguins' Kris Letang plays against the Flyers Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016 at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Kris Letang plays against the Flyers Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016 at Consol Energy Center.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang gets up after being run over in the second period against the Capitals during game 3 of the Eastern Conference second-round playoff series Monday, May 2, 2016 at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang gets up after being run over in the second period against the Capitals during game 3 of the Eastern Conference second-round playoff series Monday, May 2, 2016 at Consol Energy Center.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang plays against the Rangers during the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series in April 2016 at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang plays against the Rangers during the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series in April 2016 at Consol Energy Center.
The Penguins' Cameron Gaunce checks Philadelphia Flyers center Brayden Schenn (10) during the Stadium Series game Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, at Heinz Field.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Cameron Gaunce checks Philadelphia Flyers center Brayden Schenn (10) during the Stadium Series game Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, at Heinz Field.

Though he readied his Penguins for a game at Heinz Field on Saturday morning with an optional skate at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, coach Mike Sullivan never embraced the spirit of the NFL in his approach to injury descriptions and disclosures.

Sullivan simply ruled Kris Letang out for the Stadium Series game against Philadelphia because of an unspecified upper-body injury and insisted the star defenseman's status, “day-to-day,” remained unchanged. Letang did not participate in the morning skate but partook in the Penguins' practice Friday at Heinz Field.

NFL teams must identify what specific part of the body is afflicted by an injury and also share the likelihood of that player's participation in the next game. Teams must use three specific terms for game availability: out, doubtful or uncertain.

The latter of the three might best fit Letang's situation.

“His status has been ‘day-to-day,' and we're going to manage it day to day,” Sullivan said.

This is Letang's fourth bout with an injury this season. He missed five consecutive games in October, seven straight in December and six straight in January.

The coach also described Justin Schultz, who fully participated in practice Friday and Saturday morning, as a “game-time decision.” Schultz, who missed three games with a concussion, dressed against the Flyers.

Lonely island

All of the space around the rink at Heinz Field gave the NHL a chance to create a Pittsburgh-inspired bridge diorama, but it also gave the players a sense of isolation.

Apparently 60,000-plus fans in the seats can fade into the background with the right mix of glass walls and skates-on-ice sounds.

“It almost seems a little bit weird when you're playing the game, because they're so far away from you, and you almost forget that they're there, but there's about 75,000 (sic) of them,” center Eric Fehr said. “So it's a really interesting feel. It really does feel like it's just you and the other team, and that's kind of fun, too.”

In Hainsey Pens trust

Defenseman Ron Hainsey's on-ice preparation for his first game as a Penguin consisted of a light practice Friday at Heinz Field and a loose, optional gameday skate. But Sullivan considered that and a handful of meetings more than sufficient to school the veteran blue liner in the Penguins' schemes, specifically their penalty kill.

“We'll throw him right in,” Sullivan said. “He's comfortable with how we're trying to kill, and we think he can really help us there. I would envision him getting involved right away.”

Sheary takes next step

Conor Sheary (upper-body injury) missed his 11th consecutive game Saturday, but his involvement at the Penguins' morning skate served as an encouraging sign. The winger has worked out with a skills coach for the past several days but did not join team drills until the optional pregame workout.

“I'm getting to that point in the recovery where I think I'm getting close to playing,” said Sheary, who wore a yellow non-contact jersey. “From where I was at (initially), I think I feel pretty good. (The next step) all depends on how I feel tomorrow. I think if you're a little bit sore, you might want to hold off. But hopefully all goes well, and I'll be able to keep skating.

“It was exciting to just talk to other guys on the ice today. Maybe after you have a good play or something at practice, you can kind of banter with the other guys.”

Sheary still took advantage of the opportunity to skate Friday on the rink at Heinz Field.

“I got to take a spin and kind of see how the ice was, see what the guys (were) dealing with,” Sheary said.

Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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