Penguins Notebook: Letang, Talbot have chance to play 82 games


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ATLANTA -- The total won't be official until coach Dan Bylsma turns in the Penguins' lineup for their regular-season finale against Atlanta today at Philips Arena, but it looks as if the Penguins will lose 350 man-games to injuries and illness in 2010-11.

That is nearly double their total from last season (185) and included players from every part of the depth chart.

In fact, only two Penguins -- center Max Talbot and defenseman Kris Letang -- have a chance to dress for all 82 regular-season games. And both are well aware of it.

"It's something that was a goal for me, to play 82 games," said Letang, who missed just one game in 2009-10. "In the previous seasons, I always had a little injury that kept me playing 75, 76. So, it's good."

Talbot entered the season with a games-played goal of his own, but it wasn't 82. He had something a bit more modest in mind.

"My goal was actually 75," he said. "I write down goals before the season -- personal goals that I don't love to discuss -- but with last season and being a little bit hurt, it was an objective. To be strong out there and be able to play every game."

Penalty-killing bonanza

The Penguins are poised to lead the NHL in penalty-killing efficiency for the first time in franchise history.

They have a success rate of 86.5 percent through 81 games; the only clubs that were even close to them going into Saturday games were Los Angeles (86 percent) and Vancouver (85.9 percent).

The Penguins never have finished higher than fourth in the league rankings, and had a franchise-best kill rate of 86.4 percent in 1997-98, although that only was good enough for eighth place.

Consistently strong short-handed work is one of the primary reasons the Penguins will finish with no fewer than 104 points, third-highest total in team history.

A victory today would give them 106 and vault them into second place, trailing only the 1992-93 squad that won the Presidents' Trophy with 119.

Rupp offers suggestion

Blows to the head, and the damage they can cause, have become a huge issue in the NHL.

And, while everyone associated with the league seems to be interested in finding a way to reduce them, left winger Mike Rupp believes a grassroots approach is the best way to get those hits out of the game.

"It needs to be something through Hockey Canada and USA Hockey from a young age," he said. "The kids have to be taught where those bad positions on the ice are and how to protect yourself.

"When you're near the glass and in a vulnerable spot, you have to get your hands up (to absorb contact with the boards or glass). There are things that could be taught, fundamentally, (the results of) which we won't see for a while, but which need to be taught because the new-age player really has no read on those danger areas on the ice."

Tangradi in limbo

Left winger Eric Tangradi has not played since Feb. 11, when he got a concussion after Trevor Gillies of the New York Islanders drove an elbow into the side of his head.

Tangradi actually spent 16 games on injured-reserve because of his injury; technically, he has been a healthy scratch for the past eight.

"There's nothing holding me back right now," he said. "I really do feel like I'm 100 percent and ready to go."

Sending Tangradi to the Penguins' minor league team in Wilkes-Barre for the Calder Cup playoffs likely would have been best for all concerned, but that option was not available because of a technicality that also applies to right winger Nick Johnson.

Tip-ins

Left winger James Neal, who left the Penguins' 4-3 shootout victory Friday night on Long Island early in the second period because of an undisclosed injury, did not practice Saturday. He continues to be listed as "day to day." ... Center Sidney Crosby, recovering from a concussion, took part in the workout, but only because it did not include any contact.


Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com .


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