Penguins notebook: Concussion doesn't ice Letang this time
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With Kris Letang's concussion history this season, the Penguins weren't taking any chances Sunday when he collided with New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus. They made him leave the game until he got cleared by a doctor.
"We wouldn't put him [back] on the ice if he had any lingering effects until a doctor looked at him, given the way he reacted to that confrontation," coach Dan Bylsma said.
It turns out another play, in the third period of that game, was the one that knocked Letang out of a game Tuesday against the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center. He went feet-first into the end boards awkwardly when he was tripped by Devils forward Ryan Carter and sustained an undisclosed injury.
Bylsma listed Letang, the club's top defenseman, as day to day.
Also out Tuesday was defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who got hurt Sunday. He had arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss three to four weeks, Bylsma said.
Winger Steve Sullivan, who missed the New Jersey game, returned against the Islanders. He said his undisclosed injury was something that responded to a couple of days of rest.
Two injured players -- defenseman Matt Niskanen and center Joe Vitale -- worked out on the ice before the Penguins' game-day skate and are day to day. Injured goaltender Brent Johnson participated in the skate but probably needs a couple of more practices, Bylsma said.
Defensemen Simon Despres and Brian Strait, who were recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to fill in for Letang and Lovejoy, had played with the Penguins previously this season -- 16 games for Despres, four for Strait -- but this time it was a little different.
"It's a little bit more exciting with the playoffs coming up," Despres, the Penguins' first-round draft pick in 2009, said. "You want to get ready for the playoffs. Each time I'm up here I try to get the most out of it."
Strait said he feels more excited than nervous about playing NHL games now.
"It's quite a team here," he said. "They're playing some unbelievable hockey and trying to make a push for [being] the top team in the league. With only a few games left in the season, it's that time of year where you've got to make strides and get your game going for the playoffs. It's just exciting to be here."
The Penguins have no qualms playing the two rookies, regardless of the stakes.
"It doesn't matter what time of the year it is," Bylsma said. "If it was a playoff game, we'd feel confident putting those guys in and [having them be] able to contribute for our team."
The Penguins have a Masterton nominee in winger Matt Cooke and probably will have finalists for at least a couple of NHL season awards. The Islanders might have one, too, even though they are in contention for last place in the Eastern Conference. Winger Matt Moulson is getting some nudges for the Lady Byng Trophy, which is for sportsmanship, and he's got a fan in Bylsma.
"I love talking about Matt Moulson ," Bylsma said of the Islanders winger, who entered the game with 34 goals and just six penalty minutes. "[He's] one of my candidates for the Lady Byng. It's unbelievable what he does around the net, on the power play."
Moulson was a Penguins ninth-round draft pick in 2003, but never signed here.
Other than the Penguins' top line of Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, Bylsma has been shuffling his combinations because of injuries and see what works. He expects that to continue leading up to the playoffs, although he indicated his goal is to settle on something close to a set lineup.
"More and more in the [remaining] games you're going to see people that are going to be playing with each other going forward, but that [experimenting] will continue," he said.
First Published March 28, 2012 12:00 am