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(UPDATED) Penguins Practice: Letang Absent; Pulling for Old Pals



Pittsburgh Penguins, Kris Letang, Penguins power play

CRANBERRY — Defenseman Kris Letang was excused from the Pittsburgh Penguins’ practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex Friday.

Coach Mike Sullivan said Letang, who is averaging a team-high 24 minutes, 41 seconds of ice time per game, was given a “maintenance day,” which means he did not miss the workout because of a significant injury or illness.

Letang. who has been paired with P.O Joseph of late, has 10 goals and 40 assists in 79 games this season.

He presumably will be available for the Penguins’ game against Boston Saturday evening at PPG Paints Arena.

Third-line center Lars Eller, who sat out practice Wednesday because of illness but played in the Penguins’ 6-5 overtime victory against Detroit Thursday, left practice shortly after it got underway. Sullivan said Eller departed because of the lingering effects of that illness.

Raising Canes

None of the teams with which the Penguins are competing for a playoff spot will play tonight, but Penguins partisans might still have a rooting interest in the only game involving an Eastern Conference club.

That would be Carolina, which will visit St. Louis.

The Hurricanes might already have a bit of a following here because two of their forwards, Jordan Staal and Jake Guentzel, were quite popular during their time with the Penguins, but there’s also a practical reason to pull for Carolina against the Blues.

The Hurricanes are tied with Boston for second place in the Eastern Conference; both are three points behind the New York Rangers.

If Carolina can defeat St. Louis, it might give the Rangers — 3-3 in their past six games — a little extra incentive to elevate their game Saturday, when they will play host to the team the Penguins are trying to overtake for third place in the Metropolitan Division, the New York Islanders.

The Islanders lead the Penguins, who they will face in the regular-season finale Wednesday, by three points. Both clubs have three games remaining, and the Penguins have an insurmountable 31-27 edge in regulation victories, the first tiebreaker if the teams end up tied in points.

Staying informed

Most of the scoreboard-watching the Pittsburgh Penguins might be tempted to do Saturday should be wrapped up by the time they face the Bruins shortly after 8 p.m.

The Islanders will visit the Rangers at 12:30, New Jersey goes to Philadelphia at 5, Tampa Bay is in Washington at 5:30 and Detroit plays at Toronto at 7.