Penguins notebook: Illness might keep Letang out again

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Penguins defenseman Kris Letang remains ill, and it is doubtful he will play tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes, coach Dan Bylsma said Friday.

Letang did not practice with the team at Arena. He sat out the Penguins' 4-1 win Thursday night against the Kings in Los Angeles.

Earlier in the season, Letang missed 19 games because of knee and elbow injuries.

Asked if he was concerned that the time out of the lineup might weigh on Letang and affect his game, Bylsma said, "I think there's some of that in his game -- thinking about the situation and different things."

Letang's ailment comes on the heels of perhaps finally settling in to a groove.

"I thought Kris' last game was an excellent game," Bylsma said of the Penguins' 3-0 win Monday night against Buffalo. "Prior to going on [this two-game] trip, I think he was excited about putting [things] together.

"I thought he was in a real good spot, a real good mentality, and he played that way."

Letang was a finalist a season ago for the Norris Trophy, which goes to the top NHL defenseman. This season, he has 10 goals, 18 points in 34 games and has the worst plus-minus among the Penguins defensemen, minus-6.

Another big Crosby fan

Penguins center and NHL leading scorer Sidney Crosby spent a week here during the lockout last season, taking part in a training camp of sorts.

Coyotes winger Radim Vrbata also participated, and, more than a year later, he got a little wide-eyed when talking about the experience.

"I was able to skate with him, even on a line, for some scrimmages," Vrbata said of Crosby. "You could just see it. He's somewhere else than the rest of us."

Asked specifically what makes Crosby stand out, Vrbata said, "His complete game. He does everything well. Everything. He can shoot. He can pass. He's good on the power play. He's good on the [penalty-killing], faceoffs."

Crosby enjoys the chance to be on the ice with players who aren't his usual teammates.

"You gain an appreciation when you're playing with a guy for the little things that they do," Crosby said. "And, when you're playing in a scrimmage, you see a guy's skill flourish a little more than you would in a tight game. It's a little different.

"It's fun. You see the kind of players that guys are and the amount of skill that's out there."

That includes Vrbata, who ranks third among the Coyotes with 36 points.

"He's so gifted -- great hands, great shot," Crosby said.

Datsyuk 'C' suits Malkin

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin couldn't be happier with Russia's recent choice of captain for the Sochi Olympics later this month -- Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk.

"He has great experience," Malkin said. "He's won two Stanley Cups, world championships, he's 35 years old. We have young guys, and, when they watch how Pavel works in practice, they learn a lot."

Datsyuk also has an engaging personality.

"He's a good guy, friendly," Malkin said. "He's a funny guy in the locker room, too."

Malkin said the Russian team hasn't named alternate captains to his knowledge and said he would be happy to wear an "A" if asked. Malkin serves in that capacity for the Penguins.

Team USA Friday named forward Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild as captain for Sochi.

Crosby has been named captain of Team Canada.


Forwards Joe Vitale and Chris Conner, who each have a right wrist injury, ran the steps inside Arena before Penguins practice. Conner and winger Beau Bennett, who also has a wrist injury, skated after the formal part of practice. ... Beginning next season, the Coyotes will be the Arizona Coyotes.

Shelly Anderson:, 412-263-1721 Twitter @pgshelly.

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