Penguins Notebook: Injury-ravaged lineup loses Letang to 2-game suspension

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ST. PAUL, Minn. --The Penguins lost another key player Tuesday when defenseman Kris Letang was assessed a two-game suspension by the NHL.

Letang was ordered to sit out their game at Minnesota Tuesday night and one at home against Montreal Thursday because of a hit from behind Monday night on Winnipeg's Alexander Burmistrov in the Penguins' 2-1 loss to the Jets.

That means the Penguins know they will not get Letang back until New Jersey visits Consol Energy Center Saturday.

Coach Dan Bylsma, though, said that one or two of the four injured players who did not accompany the team to Winnipeg and Minnesota could be in the lineup against the Canadiens two nights earlier.

"I don't really have a clear, definitive answer on that, but possibly one or two," he said. "Possibly, maybe one guy."

Those four -- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Orpik and Dustin Jeffrey -- have been working out on the ice under the guidance of conditioning coach Mike Kadar.

Asked who is a candidate to return against the Canadiens, Bylsma said, "Pick one. I'll take any one of them."

It subsequently was confirmed, however, that Crosby will not be in uniform for the Montreal game.

The workout regimen for the injured players who did not go on the trip includes contact, which Crosby was cleared to take last week, but Bylsma said he does not know how vigorous the hitting has been.

"They're going through a structured practice," he said. "I'm not entirely sure to what degree ... if they're running the gauntlet."

Preliminary testing show that right winger Tyler Kennedy, who has missed the past two games, has a concussion, but he is expected to be re-tested once the Penguins are home.

Yeo savors new job

Former Penguins assistant coach Mike Yeo is in his first season as coach of the Wild, and his first as a head coach at this level.

Suffice to say, he does not seem to have any regrets about accepting the job when it was offered by Minnesota general manager Chuck Fletcher, another Penguins alum.

"I'm loving it," Yeo said Tuesday. "Loving it. It's been better than I ever could have imagined."

The Wild was 2-1-1 before facing the Penguins Tuesday night and remains very much a work in progress.

"The most challenging thing for us is really building the consistency into our game," Yeo said. "I completely expected that to start the season.

"It's the same thing we had to deal with last year [with his American Hockey League club] in Houston. You go into a new place and you're trying to do more than change the way you play.

"You're trying to build an identity and you're trying to create a new culture."

So far, Yeo said, the players have been receptive to his instruction, which is part of the reason his job has been so enjoyable.

"A lot of that goes to the people that I work with, especially the players," he said. "Their buy-in has been outstanding, their attitude has been outstanding. We push them hard, and they've responded."

Johnson's role undefined

Right winger Nick Johnson made a serious run at a job with the Penguins this fall before being put on waivers and sent to Wilkes-Barre.

He never made it there.

Minnesota claimed him, and it looked as if he had a shot at steady work in the NHL.

Johnson, though, was a healthy scratch for the third game in a row Tuesday night, and the Wild coaching staff still has not figured out precisely what role he will fill.

"When he gets back in there, we'll be able to figure out, is he a third-line guy? Is he a fourth-line guy? Is he a depth guy? We're not sure on that yet.

"When he's played so far, he's played well. We've been happy with him. But we just haven't seen enough to make that decision."

No bounty on Penguins

There is a longstanding NHL tradition of players offering a bounty of sorts when facing their former team, with money being posted on a locker-room board and going to the teammate who scores the winning goal.

Toronto coach Ron Wilson tried a form of that in January, when he made it known that the player who got the goal that gave him his 600th victory would receive $600.

The league was not amused -- presumably because of the salary-cap implications of a team official giving a player money that is not accounted for in his contract -- and Wilson was fined an undisclosed amount.

All of which eliminated any possibility of Yeo using similar motivation for his first regular-season meeting with the Penguins.

"There have been a few guys approaching me about that," he said. "But you can't do it now."

Dave Molinari: or Twitter @MolinariPG.


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