Penguins notebook: Letang's injury might not be as bad as earlier concussion

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DENVER -- The Penguins will find out in the next few days where things stand with defenseman Kris Letang, who has a suspected concussion, but there are indications he might not have a severe injury.

Coach Dan Bylsma said Friday that Letang's symptoms "are not dramatic at this point, but certainly [we are] going to get home and get him evaluated by our doctors."

Letang got hurt Wednesday on a hit by Dallas forward Eric Nystrom. He has remained with the team on this road trip and will travel home with the Penguins after the game tonight against the Avalanche.

Letang was out from Nov. 26, when he got a concussion in a game against Montreal, to Jan. 19, a span of 21 games. He has said it took a couple of days for the concussion symptoms to develop and then they left him dizzy and nauseated and made it difficult to get out of bed.

In the 48 hours since this injury, Letang has bused with the team to practice twice and watched in street clothes. Players are held out when they have symptoms regardless of the intensity of those symptoms.

Injury updates

Bylsma ruled right winger Tyler Kennedy out of the game tonight at Colorado. Kennedy, who has a high-ankle sprain, has practiced with the team the past three days.

Winger Steve Sullivan, who left the game Wednesday because of an unspecified injury, has not practiced the past two days but might play tonight. Bylsma said Sullivan is expected to participate in the morning skate.

Goaltender Brent Johnson has not practiced since he left a Feb. 23 practice early after he "tweaked something," according to Bylsma. Bylsma said Friday that Johnson's problem does not appear to be a long-term issue.

Center and captain Sidney Crosby's status has not changed. He continues to practice with the team, but hasn't been cleared for contact as he recovers from a neck injury and concussion symptoms.

An attention-grabber

It wasn't until near the end of practice at the Pepsi Center that the Penguins did drills involving line combinations.

With Sullivan not on the ice, Bylsma had Crosby fill in by skating on the left wing with center Jordan Staal and right winger Pascal Dupuis. There has been some speculation that when Crosby comes back, Bylsma might consider playing him and Staal on the same line, but this wasn't an audition or foreshadowing.

Bylsma cracked that, "I only did that for [the media]. I could have put Dustin Jeffrey there, or Tyler Kennedy. I don't think that would hit Twitter as quickly as if Sid was up there."

Jeffrey, a healthy scratch lately, skated on a two-man spare line with Kennedy.

At one point, Staal was slated to try playing on the wing with center Evgeni Malkin, but Malkin is now entrenched on a highly successful line with wingers Chris Kunitz and James Neal.

Staal was willing to entertain the idea of playing with Crosby, something that hasn't happened outside of the power play in their six seasons together.

"It's going to be interesting to see how the lines are when he gets back. It would be very exciting to play with him," he said, then deadpanned, "he's a pretty good hockey player."

Asked about the dynamics of that, Staal said, "I'm sure he would be just as good as he usually is, and I would try to keep up with him. It could be an interesting thing."

About that high altitude

Although he noted that "some of it's probably mental," Bylsma believes there is a difference playing in the higher altitude here.

"There is an effect on the players," he said.

"I think the players are well aware that their shifts are going to be shorter. You don't want to deal with being out there too long and having to manage the game differently."

Tip-ins

Penguins prospect and injured Denver University forward Beau Bennett visited with the team Thursday when it practiced at the school. Friday, Bennett again watched practice and spent quite a while beforehand chatting with assistant Tony Granato. ... With no dry-erase board available for practice, Bylsma improvised -- he drew up drills with a marker right on the Pepsi Center glass. ... Colorado left winger Gabriel Landeskog, who led all rookies in scoring with 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 12 games, was named NHL rookie of the month for February.


For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com , 412-263-1721 or Twitter @pgshelly.


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