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Penguins Notebook: Letang’s Injuries; WBS Opportunities



Pittsburgh Penguins, Kris Letang

In the final weeks of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season, defenseman and core player Kris Letang sat out several practices and morning skates because of what were called maintenance days. He didn’t miss any games. In fact, he played in all 82. However, Letang was far from 100 percent.

“I was going through some stuff,” Letang said Thursday as players cleared out their lockers, adding that at that point he still had a planned meeting with the team’s medical staff and that some sort of offseason surgery had not been ruled out.

Coach Mike Sullivan revealed a little more, saying Letang “was dealing with a myriad of injuries for a long time, and he’s a warrior. There’s no other way to put it (given) some of the things he was dealing with down the stretch and continuing to play through to help us try to get to where we wanted. That was a big reason why he wasn’t at practice.”

Letang said he has not considered going to the IIHF World Championships with Team Canada, but he did not elaborate in terms of whether his physical status affected that.

President of hockey operations and general manager Kyle Dubas could offer more details about Letang’s status when he meets with reporters on Friday.

Opportunity for Penguins Prospects

While participating in, or at least being around, the Stanley Cup playoffs might have been of high value for several of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ prospects, they will still have a good opportunity.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has clinched a spot in the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup playoffs, and many of the young players in the Penguins’ system will be participating.

Thursday, forwards Valtteri Puustinen and Radim Zohorna, and defenseman Jack St. Ivany were reassigned to WBS. Others already there include forward Sam Poulin and goaltender Joel Blomqvist, who was named an AHL second-team All-Star and to the AHL all-rookie team.

Each of those players except Blomqvist spent at least some time this season in the NHL.

“Of course we’ll watch it closely,” Sullivan said. “There are a handful of guys down there that potentially could challenge for a roster spot (in the fall). Some of them, you just saw that have come up and participated at this level.

“It’s great they’ve got an opportunity to play in a high-stakes environment, a playoff environment. I think that’s a valuable growth opportunity for young players.”

Smiling Puustinen

Before he shipped off to Wilkes-Barre, Puustinen spoke with a few reporters about his experience playing in 52 games this season. He had five goals, 20 points playing winger in a few different line combinations after making his NHL debut — one game – last season.

While his English is still a work in progress, Puustinen’s smile was loud and clear. The Finn was beaming.

“Of course this is tough today (after the Penguins missed the playoffs), but I have a good feeling,” he said. “This is my first year here, and I can’t wait until next year.

“I’ll (have) hard practices – I’ll take it easy first – but I’m so hungry to come back.”

He said he got a grasp of what playing in the NHL takes. The bottom line, he indicated, is working on speed.

Not only did Puustinen enormously appreciate the shot at playing a lot of games in the NHL, but he also got a big kick out of playing on a team with the likes of Letang, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and others.

“This is really nice for me because when I was kid I was watching what guys were doing on the TV or YouTube video, and now I play on the same team and sometimes on the same line or power play, and I sat (near Crosby in the locker room), and I … yeah, that’s great.”