With Kris Letang out, defensemen take turns leading Penguins in ice time | TribLIVE.com
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Jonathan Bombulie

BUFFALO, N.Y. – When Kris Letang went down with an upper-body injury during the outdoor game in Philadelphia on Feb. 23, the remaining healthy defensemen on the Pittsburgh Penguins roster realized it would require a collaborative effort to replace him.

They’re taking that concept to the extreme.

The Penguins have had a different defenseman lead the team in ice time in each of their past four games.

It was Erik Gudbranson against Washington (22:43), Brian Dumoulin against Boston (23:13), Marcus Pettersson at home against Columbus (23:36) and Justin Schultz on the road against the Blue Jackets (21:27).

“We’re just rolling,” Schultz said. “We can put anyone out there and we feel comfortable. Guys are playing great. We just have to continue that.”

The Penguins’ defense corps lends itself to such a balancing act because it includes players of different skill sets and styles of play.

For a physical matchup against Washington, Gudbranson got the call. For a game when a defenseman with a more offensive mindset is in demand, Schultz might lead the team in minutes.

“That’s huge. Having that depth at this time of year is a big advantage, I would say,” Gudbranson said. “Certain teams, certain games demand more from different guys. Being able to provide that and the fact that certain guys are ready to do that is huge for this group.”

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