The Penguins didn't ask defenseman Kris Letang whether he was healthy enough to return to the lineup for a matinee Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers. They didn't have to.
"That's kind of me," Letang said after a 6-4 loss to the Flyers. "I told them I was ready to go."
Letang had missed three games in six days because of an undisclosed injury that apparently happened when he was sent feet-first into the boards March 25 in a game against the New Jersey Devils.
"Obviously, with the loss, it kind of ruined the comeback, but I felt pretty good," Letang said.
He certainly didn't seem limited. He played 27 minutes, 58 seconds, the most of anyone in the game and his seventh-most ice time this season. And that was with him playing on the second power-play unit, which cut his time by perhaps two minutes or more.
Coach Dan Bylsma said he intends to switch between five forwards and four plus Letang on the top unit of the power play, at least before the playoffs, which start next week.
"We will continue to see both of those [looks] the next three games and ... [perhaps] in the playoffs as well," Bylsma said.
Letang stayed behind while the Penguins went on the road for games Thursday at Long Island and Friday at Buffalo and did not take a day off Saturday like the rest of the team.
"I worked out, I got treated and I skated on my own," he said. "I kept my conditioning pretty good."
With Letang back, the Penguins returned rookie defenseman Brian Strait to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
After the Penguins' 5-3 loss Tuesday to the New York Islanders, defenseman Brooks Orpik stood up as the voice of the team and lamented that the club was playing offense-first rather than defense-first.
After a loss Sunday, he backed off of such observations.
"A lot of times your initial reaction is a lot different than when you watch video the next day," Orpik said. "It's just one game. Were you concerned after [a 5-3 win at Buffalo] Friday? I don't know. Are you excited after Friday and concerned now?
"It's a good hockey team we lost to, and we can play better."
What looked like a jumble of line combinations for the Penguins -- Craig Adams on Sidney Crosby's line, Crosby on Evgeni Malkin's line, Tyler Kennedy on the fourth line, among other looks -- really wasn't, Bylsma said.
He insisted that, for the most part, he had set lines of Chris Kunitz-Malkin-James Neal, Steve Sullivan-Crosby-Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke-Jordan Staal-Kennedy and Craig Adams-Joe Vitale-Arron Asham.
"There's probably a little bit of a misconception right now that I do mix and match," Bylsma said. "There are occasions because of five forwards out on the power play and coming out of the penalty-kill where other people get slotted onto some of those lines."
The Flyers have won all five games they have played at Consol Energy Center, which opened with the start of the 2010-11 season. Coach Peter Laviolette has a guess at why.
"We buy ribs from Dee Jays [BBQ] in Weirton [W.Va.] after the game and have them delivered to the plane, and those ribs seem to be doing the trick," Laviolette said. "It [goes] back to last year. Whenever the ribs are ordered, we win. I want to thank Dee Jays."
Philadelphia winger Scott Hartnell had another theory -- the new arena simply isn't Mellon/Civic Arena.
"You were almost scared coming into the Igloo," Hartnell said. "People were right on top of you. It was so dumpy."
It's also almost gone, with the last portion of the domed roof having come down Saturday as demolition continues.
A look at some streaks and milestones:
Dupuis had two assists to extend his points streak to 14 games, the longest in the NHL this season. He has nine goals, 10 assists in the streak. ... Crosby had two assists, giving him 603 career points and putting him into a tie with Jean Pronovost for fifth in Penguins history. ... Philadelphia goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made a career-high 43 saves for the win. ... With two assists (in addition to a goal), winger Claude Giroux has 61 assists, the eighth Flyers player to reach 60 and the first since Mark Recchi had 63 in 1999-2000.penguins
For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 or Twitter @pgshelly.