Penguins Letang can't warm to more outdoor games

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News that the Penguins likely will play in one of several outdoor games next season wasn't exactly received warmly by defenseman Kris Letang.

"I think I've gotten enough of outdoor games," he said Wednesday.

Letang and the Penguins have played in the outdoor Winter Classic twice, a 2-1 shootout win against Buffalo in 2008 in snowy Ralph Wilson Stadium and a 3-1 loss to Washington in 2011 at rainy Heinz Field.

"The first time, you couldn't see anything. There was too much snow," he said. "The ice was good, [but] it was really cold."

"Here, it was plus-5 [Celsius]. The ice was horrible."

The 2014 Winter Classic will feature Toronto and Detroit Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

There are plans to add five other outdoor games around North America, including a game between the Penguins and Blackhawks March 1 at Chicago's Soldier Field.

"It's pretty cool for the fans, I guess," Letang said. "It's a good experience and everything, but I think they should make it more unique instead of having a bunch of them. It's something you want to see once a year, not 15 times."

Bylsma, Oates disagree

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma took an opportunity to rebut Washington coach Adam Oates, who Tuesday said Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin should "absolutely" win the Hart Trophy as the MVP of the NHL and that the overwhelming favorite for most of the season, Penguins center Sidney Crosby, has fallen off because "you've got to factor in the fact he's missed a lot of games."

Crosby, who had surgery for a broken jaw, missed his seventh game in a row Wednesday when the Penguins played Montreal. Going into the game, Crosby still led the league in points (56) and assists (41).

After a miserable start, Ovechkin has 28 points over his past 18 games and led the NHL with 28 goals before Wednesday night.

"Adam Oates is the only person I've heard that didn't think it was Sidney Crosby who was the most valuable player for the Hart Trophy, even though he has not played in the last stretch of games," Bylsma said. "What he's been and how dominant he's been and the consistency with which he did it over the games he played left no doubt in, I think, a lot of people's minds."

New world for Hartzell

As usual, the Penguins' three injured players -- Crosby, winger James Neal (concussion) and defenseman Paul Martin (hand) -- skated before the game-day skate, and this time they were joined by goaltender Eric Hartzell.

Hartzell, signed after leading Quinnipiac to the NCAA final Saturday at Consol Energy Center, was a bit star-struck when he pulled on a Penguins practice jersey for the first time and shook Crosby's hand.

"I was, like, 'Uhhhh, what do I do?' " Hartzell said, adding that facing shots by Crosby was "a dream come true."

Hartzell, 23, will serve as the team's third/practice goalie.

"It's the greatest organization in hockey," Hartzell said. "They offered me an opportunity to get better not only as a man but as a hockey player."

Hartzell was a Hobey Baker finalist after going 30-7-5 with a 1.75 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage.

At 6 feet 4, Hartzell has size and skill that goes beyond hockey.

"I was a three-sport athlete in high school," said Hartzell, who was a quarterback and played baseball in Minnesota. "I like to say I'm a little athletic."

Hartzell's father, Kevin, played hockey for the University of Minnesota, where he won an NCAA title under late coach Herb Brooks.

Tip-ins

Former winger Mark Recchi and former longtime team physician Charles "Chip" Burke were inducted onto the Penguins All-Time Team. ... The Penguins held a moment of silence for the victims of the bombings Monday at the Boston Marathon. ... Crosby will not skate today. "He is going home to be with family for a family funeral," Bylsma said. "He'll join us later in the week." ... The Penguins' game-day skate was optional. Not skating were forwards Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen and Matt Cooke, and defenseman Brooks Orpik. ... Canadiens center Ryan White served the first game of a five-game suspension for a hit to the head of Philadelphia's Kent Huskins.

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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: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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