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Penguins Wrap: Stunning News & a Surprise Jump-Start



Pittsburgh Penguins game Kasperi Kapanen

The past week started badly for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who’d opened a five-game homestand with a 4-1 loss to Toronto, and then got much worse, when Kris Letang’s teammates learned that he’d suffered a stroke.

However, the outlook for a full recovery by Letang seems promising, and the prognosis for the Penguins is encouraging, too, since they took five points out of three games after Letang left the lineup.

Here’s a look back at the week that was:


The Penguins’ botched line change that allowed Toronto to take a 1-0 lead 40 seconds into the game the night before underscored how efficiently changing personnel while play is in progress is an important, but often overlooked, aspect of the game.


The Penguins’ penalty-kill, a source of much frustration (and lots of goals-against) during the early weeks of the season, got a lot better when Teddy Blueger returned from the Long-Term Injured list. That wasn’t a coincidence.

Personnel combinations during the Penguins’ workout at the Hunt Armory in Shadyside suggest that Kasperi Kapanen, a healthy scratch for the previous seven games, is likely to replace Danton Heinen in the lineup against Carolina Tuesday.

Kapanen has been the Penguins’ biggest disappointment to this point of the season. What are the chances they could trade his $3.2 million contract, which runs until 2024, for a deal another club is trying to shed?


Jake Guentzel scores in the final minute of regulation to force overtime, but Carolina gets the game-winning goal seconds after a controversial non-call during the extra period.

Bryan Rust declined to comment on the sequence that led to the Hurricanes’ game-winner because “I don’t want to get fined.” If nothing else, that suggests Rust’s judgment was better than that exercised by referees Steve Kozari and Trevor Hanson when they allowed play to proceed after Rust was cross-checked into the boards near the Penguins’ blue line.

Letang is scratched from the Penguins’ lineup. At the time, it is believed that he has a flu-like ailment, since he’d practiced Monday with no apparent problem.


The Pittsburgh Penguins stun the hockey world with the announcement that Letang missed the game Tuesday not because of a common illness, but because he’d had a stroke Monday and will be out indefinitely.

Ron Hextall offers a balanced perspective on Letang, noting that while all strokes are serious, there is every reason to believe that Letang’s will not threaten his career.

This wasn’t Letang’s first stroke. Shelly Anderson looks back at the one he had in 2014, and what can be gleaned from it.

Hours before the Letang news broke, the idea of changing personnel on the Penguins’ sputtering No. 1 power-play unit was proposed in a PHN column.


Kapanen, in his second game back after sitting out seven as a healthy scratch, scores his first goal since the regular-season opener. And it turns out to be the game-winner in a 4-3 victory against Vegas.

Sidney Crosby says the Penguins got a big assist from Letang, even though he wasn’t in the lineup.

While the spotlight understandably fell on Kapanen, P.O Joseph had a pretty fair showing against the Golden Knights, too.

The Penguins’ desperation for a victory was evident in their play, and it was rewarded.

Letang’s teammates offer their first public reactions to his stroke, with Chad Ruhwedel describing it as “scary stuff.”


Is it possible that the Penguins are, in some ways, too good for their own good?


Kapanen does it again, recording his second career hat trick in a 6-2 victory against St. Louis.

Jason Zucker and Jordan Binnington probably won’t get together during the holidays, but they did have a meet-up of sorts late in the first period.

Kapanen suggested that his hat trick might have been the “easiest” in NHL history. He just might have a point. which does not detract from his accomplishment.

Between Kapanen and the No. 2 line of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Blues never had a chance.

The updates on Letang continue to be encouraging.