Letang: Punishment fit the crime
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NEW YORK -- The blind-side blow to the face defenseman Kris Letang absorbed Saturday from Montreal's Max Pacioretty broke his nose and compelled him to spend a lot of time with medical personnel the past few days.
Even so, Letang doesn't seem to be carrying a grudge and said he believes the three-game suspension Pacioretty received Monday is reasonable punishment.
"I think it's a fair amount of games," Letang said. "I'm not [angry with] him. I don't think he's a dirty player. I don't think he's out there to injure anyone, but you have to be responsible for your actions on the ice. ... It's about the safety of the players."
Letang acknowledged after the game-day skate Tuesday that he still was having some trouble breathing and was feeling "a little bit tired" in the wake of the shot he took from Pacioretty.
Neither Letang nor fellow defenseman Zbynek Michalek played against the Rangers because of injuries.
Coach Dan Bylsma declined to second-guess the $2,500 fine winger James Neal was assessed by the NHL for high-sticking Montreal defenseman PK Subban, even though he agreed that Subban had taken Neal's feet out from under him to trigger the sequence.
"Control of the stick is in the rulebook," Bylsma said. "I think it's regardless of the situation. I think he was aided and there was a kicking of the feet, but he's responsible for his stick. It was a high stick."
Neal suggested that Subban bears some responsibility for what happened. "He kicks my feet out from under me, [from] behind me. I'm trying to draw a penalty and I accidentally hit him in the head."
Neal's fine, which will go to the Players Emergency Assistance Fund, is the maximum fine allowed by the labor agreement.
Bylsma might have as much job security as any coach in professional sports, but he's keenly aware that three of his colleagues already have lost their jobs this season.
A close friend, Davis Payne, was replaced by Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis, and Paul Maurice (Carolina) and Bruce Boudreau (Washington) were fired Monday.
"All three coaches in question are very good coaches and have done good things," Bylsma said. "To see them be dismissed, it does give you pause. It's an uneasy day for every coach when you see that happen."
The ongoing renovations to Madison Square Garden got generally favorable reviews from the Penguins, although several players noted that the new, dark blue seats in the arena's lower bowl occasionally made it tough to follow the puck at the game-day skate.
"There's nothing light," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "Just black."
The consensus was that that would be less of an issue when the game began, because the clothing worn by fans would make for a better background.
Sidney Crosby played in his fifth game since returning from a concussion that forced him to sit out 61. Four games were enough for him to accumulate nine points, but not enough to make him forget how grateful he is to be playing again.
"You go for 10 months without competing and being around your team, not only when it's good, but when you're down and that challenge of coming back in a game or facing adversity, that's stuff that I don't think you realize until you're gone that you really thrive on and you really miss," he said.
"All the things that come along with playing and the challenges and being part of a team, all that stuff, I think I appreciated it all before but once it's gone you realize how much you miss it."
Crosby has risen to fourth in the voting for All-Star forwards. Crosby has 206,863 votes, 2,592 behind Ottawa's Jason Spezza, who is third.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Letang and center Evgeni Malkin also rank among the leading vote-getters at their positions.
Fleury is second with 169,721 votes and trails Boston's Tim Thomas by 5,594. Letang is third among defensemen with 195,528 votes, 18,089 fewer than second-place Dion Phaneuf of Toronto. Malkin is 11th among forwards with 110,576 votes.
Forwards James Neal (95,454 votes) and Jordan Staal (65,728) also are on the ballot.
First Published November 30, 2011 12:00 am