Penguins Notebook: Letang's new priority is shooting more

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Kris Letang was viewed as a major addition when he joined to the Penguins' lineup earlier this season.

Not only because he has impressive skills and enormous potential, but also because he is a right-handed shot, a relatively rare thing in the NHL

Well, Letang has exceeded expectations in a lot of ways -- his defensive work and physical play have been better than anticipated -- and he still is right-handed, but shots haven't been a major part of the equation for him in recent weeks.

He has been credited with two in each of the Penguins' past two games. That probably doesn't seem like much -- and it shouldn't -- but it actually is a significant increase from his output in the previous five games, when he failed to record a shot in four and had one in the other.

Letang has appeared in 35 NHL games this season, and never has had more than three shots on goal And his failure to shoot has become so striking that several members of the Penguins' coaching staff discussed it with him.

"I have to shoot more," Letang said. "That's the key. It's going to happen."

Letang said there are several reasons his shot total has declined recently. Not only because his first inclination is to try to get the puck to a skilled forward -- "When you have [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby on the ice, or [Petr] Sykora, and you have a chance to give it to them ..." -- but also because he doesn't want to be guilty of a costly error, like having a shot attempt blocked and turned into a scoring chance for the other team.

"Sometimes, you don't want to make a mistake," he said. "All of our games have had close scores."

Defenseman called up

The Penguins recalled rookie defenseman Alex Goligoski from their minor-league team in Wilkes-Barre yesterday.

Goligoski gives the Penguins seven defenseman, one more than the usual complement. It was not clear if there is a connection between his recall and coach Michel Therrien's criticism of Ryan Whitney's defensive play after the Penguins' 4-3 overtime loss Monday in New Jersey.

Goligoski is 5 foot 11, 180 pounds, and a skilled offensive defenseman who moves the puck and sees the ice well. His greatest need going into this season was to add strength, especially when offseason shoulder surgery limited his ability to work out before making his pro debut.

Still, he is regarded as the Penguins' top defensive prospect, and director of player development Tom Fitzgerald spoke of him in glowing terms recently.

"He's one of those guys who is getting better and better every game," Fitzgerald said. "I don't think his size is a concern at all. He's got great agility, great quickness. He's a very good skater and sees the ice well.

"He'll be able to see guys coming and protect himself. It will be easier for him with better players who are on the same page, the same wavelength. He has so much skill and upside."

Goligoski, who skipped his senior season at the University of Minnesota to sign with the Penguins, has six goals and 11 assists in 43 games with the Baby Penguins.

He was the Penguins' second-round draft choice in 2004 and played in the recent American Hockey League All-Star Game.

Slap shots

The Penguins' game at Buffalo Feb. 17 will be played at 6:08 p.m. and televised by FSN Pittsburgh. It had been a candidate to be played earlier in the day and broadcast nationally by NBC. ... Therrien gave the Penguins yesterday off. ... The New York Islanders will visit Mellon Arena at 7:38 p.m. tomorrow, the start of a four-game homestand.



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