Injured Letang, Michalek to miss second game in row

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WASHINGTON -- The 4-3 overtime victory Saturday night in Montreal, when the Penguins overcame a 3-1 deficit, was one of their most impressive of the season.

It also might turn out to be one of the most costly.

Two defensemen, Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek , took hits to the head late in the third period, and both will sit out their second game in a row when the Penguins face the Capitals tonight.

Although neither has been confirmed to have a concussion, that remains a possibility for both. They returned to Pittsburgh to have their conditions evaluated and monitored.

Coach Dan Bylsma said after practice Wednesday that Michalek has passed a concussion test but is bothered by a headache after receiving a hit with about five minutes to go in regulation.

"He can't be cleared [to play] because he has a symptom, still," Bylsma said.

"It's really precautionary at this point. He'll be exercising in the next 24 hours and we'll see where he's at."

Letang's nose was broken on a hit by Montreal's Max Pacioretty and, according to Bylsma, the defenseman also has a virus, which can cause symptoms similar to some found in concussion victims.

"He felt fine for a couple of days [after the Montreal game], skated with us after being evaluated. He started to get some symptoms in New York," Bylsma said.

The Penguins played the Rangers on Tuesday.

"He also has a virus ... so there are some other things going on there with Kris. He's not even to the point where he can take a [concussion] test."

Despres coming up

The Penguins will recall defenseman Simon Despres from their minor league team in Wilkes-Barre today. To clear a spot for him on their 23-man roster, defenseman Alexandre Picard will be returned to the Baby Penguins. Despres, a first-round draft choice in 2009, has three goals and four assists in 22 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season.

Quick summons

Picard's recall was even quicker than his demotion.

He didn't learn until early afternoon Tuesday that he was being summoned to play that night against the Rangers, and Robert Bortuzzo didn't learn that he was being promoted, too, until about a half-hour after that.

The Baby Penguins were in Norfolk, Va., for a game, and Picard and Bortuzzo were hard-pressed to make it to Madison Square Garden in time because their flight from Norfolk to JFK airport in New York was delayed an hour, and they got stuck in rush-hour traffic.

"I think we got [to the arena] at 6:45," Bortuzzo said. "At first, we thought the game was at 7 so we didn't think we had hope."

It was a 7:38 p.m. start, and both players were ready when the game began.

Penalty kill leaking

Going into games Wednesday, the Penguins' road penalty killing had slipped to 12th in the league, with a success rate of 84.9 percent. That's not a bad figure, but it has been declining steadily in recent weeks.

They have given up two power-play goals three times in the past four away games and lost all three of those games.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik , though, said he doesn't believe the short-handed struggles away from Consol Energy Center constitute an alarming trend just yet. "I don't think it's the road. Home, road, we always have the same mindset going in. ... It's the same approach, the same focus."

Just not the same results.

Value climbing places the value of the Penguins at $264 million. That is up 12 percent from a season ago, and ranks them as the ninth-most valuable franchise in the NHL. The league's most valuable franchise is Toronto at $521 million. The least valuable is Phoenix at $134 million.

First Published December 1, 2011 5:00 AM


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