Penguins Notebook: Letang, Kennedy selected to play in YoungStars game
Defenseman Kris Letang wasn't even on the roster at the beginning of the season, but will be spending All-Star weekend in Atlanta.
Share with others:
The Penguins' representation for the All-Star weekend doubled yesterday when defenseman Kris Letang and forward Tyler Kennedy were among the 16 YoungStars invited.
They join center Sidney Crosby, a starter who received the most fan votes, and defenseman Sergei Gonchar. Those two will participate in the All-Star Game Jan. 27 in Atlanta.
Letang, 20, and Kennedy, 21, who each began the season in the minor leagues, will be part of an eight-player Eastern Conference rookie squad that will play a three-on-three game against eight rookie YoungStars from the West. The game will be incorporated into the SuperSkills competition Jan. 26.
Letang opened the 2006-07 season with the Penguins before being returned to his junior team. He was thought to have a strong chance to open this season with the Penguins but instead was sent to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
"He didn't have such a good training camp," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said of Letang, a third-round draft pick in 2005. "We didn't want him to waste any time here. We could have kept him as a seventh defenseman, but that wouldn't have been the right thing to do."
Letang worked on the defensive aspect of his game in the American Hockey League and was promoted in mid-November. In 26 games with the Penguins, he has two goals, six assists and has two game-deciding shootout goals.
Kennedy, a fourth-round draft pick in 2004, was promoted from Wilkes-Barre in late October. He has eight goals, four assists in 30 games for the Penguins. His four game-winning goals are the most among NHL rookies.
Four Atlantic Division teams made the playoffs last season, with only downtrodden Philadelphia sitting out.
The Flyers are greatly improved, enabling the Atlantic to hold four of the eight Eastern Conference playoff spots through yesterday, with the New York Rangers a close ninth.
That raises the possibility that all five Atlantic teams could qualify, even though that would mean that only one other non-division winner from the conference gets in.
Crosby, who tied Tampa Bay's Vincent Lacavalier for the NHL scoring lead with 63 points by getting two assists Monday, has not has sole possession of the scoring lead this season but was tied two other days, Nov. 12-13. Crosby is the defending scoring champion. ... The Penguins, who don't play until Friday, had the day off yesterday. ... The other YoungStars from the East are forwards Nicklas Backstrom of Washington, Brandon Dubinsky of the Rangers and Milan Lucic of Boston, and defensemen Tobias Enstrom of Atlanta, Mike Lundin of Tampa Bay and Marc Staal of the Rangers. The Western Conference squad includes forwards Sam Gagner of Edmonton, Patrick Kane of Chicago, Peter Mueller of Phoenix and David Perron of St. Louis, and defensemen Alexander Elder of Vancouver, Erik Johnson of St. Louis, Jack Johnson of Los Angeles and Matt Niskanen of Dallas. Goalies from the main All-Star Game will participate in the YoungStars competition.
First Published January 16, 2008 12:00 am