Penguins notebook: Prognosis uncertain for Letang injury


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WEST POINT, N.Y. -- With less than a week until they open the season, the Penguins have lost defenseman Kris Letang for an undetermined length of time.

Letang got what is believed to be a knee or lower-leg injury Friday in practice. The Penguins don't expect to learn the severity of it until after they return home Monday from a weekend of practice and team-bonding activities at the U.S. Military Academy.

"I don't really have any indication of whether that's a short-term or extended [injury] or what the extent to that would be," coach Dan Bylsma said Saturday. "We're going to wait to see when we get back to Pittsburgh."

Letang, 26, did not practice Saturday and won't again today.

He was a finalist last season for the Norris Trophy, which goes to the top defenseman in the NHL, after averaging more than a point a game. He is the quarterback of the team's top power-play unit and is slated to skate on a top pairing with Rob Scuderi.

The Penguins open the 2013-14 season Thursday against New Jersey at Consol Energy Center.

Orpik back on the ice

Defenseman Brooks Orpik returned to practice, which was a rigorous one at Tate Rink in West Point. He had been out because of an undisclosed injury since he missed the third period of the preseason finale Wednesday.

"He participated at a full go ... and looked pretty good out there," Bylsma said.

Winger Matt D'Agostini, who has an unspecified injury, skated in full gear near the end of practice. Bylsma said D'Agostini will skate again today.

Derrick Pouliot practiced and Olli Maatta did not -- the opposite of Friday's session -- as the Penguins limit the number of defensemen to a workable eight per practice.

Passing the torch-carrying

Washington star winger Alex Ovechkin had to work at it, including getting permission from the Capitals, but he was allowed to pull off a quick trip to Olympia, Greece, where today he will be the first Russian to carry the Olympic torch on its relay to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Games.

That's just two days before Washington opens its season in Chicago.

Penguins center Sidney Crosby understands.

"That's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Crosby said. "I think anybody would do whatever they could to make that work."

The torch is relayed from its home in Greece to the site of each Olympics, where it burns for the duration of the Games.

Just as Ovechkin will be a torchbearer for an Olympics in his native country, Crosby ran a leg of the torch relay leading up to the 2010 games in Vancouver. And while Ovechkin wasn't able to swing a trip to hometown Moscow during the NHL season to run with the torch, Crosby was able to work in a side trip Nov. 19, 2009, in-season, to carry the torch in Halifax. That's the large city closest to his hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.

"It's nice he's going to be able to do that," Crosby said of Ovechkin, his on-ice rival for years.

"I can relate. I'm really glad I was able to do it. It was pretty special, especially being at home where you spent so much time. You go through that place now, and that's where you carried the torch."

Crosby's memories of that evening go beyond the 300 meters he slowly jogged while holding the torch high as thousands of people cheered him on.

"The coolest thing was meeting all the people who were carrying that torch," he said. "Everybody came from every different place, all walks of life. It was amazing to see that for however long they carried that torch, that was a pretty proud moment for them, seeing the excitement.

"Sharing that with everyone was probably one of the coolest things when I look back. We all took a bus together to different checkpoints where we passed the torch. You got to meet everyone, hear where they're from, seeing what an experience that was for them."

Crosby, who is expected to again play for Team Canada, went on in 2010 to score the overtime goal against the United States that gave Canada the gold medal. Russia will find out in February whether Ovechkin can pull off anything similar. Penguins center Evgeni Malkin also is expected to play for Russia.

penguins

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


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