CRANBERRY — Kris Letang did not participate in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 30-minutes practice this afternoon at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex because of what Coach Mike Sullivan described as a “lower-body injury.”
He declined to elaborate on the nature of the injury.
Letang’s status for the Penguins’ game against the New Jersey Devils Friday at 7:08 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena was not immediately known.
“People get hurt,” Sullivan said. “It’s just the reality of the sport that we play.”
Letang, who anchors the No. 1 pairing, leads the Penguins in ice time with an average of 24 minutes, 32 seconds. He is their highest-scoring defenseman, with two goals and 14 assists in 29 games.
Ty Smith, recalled from the Pittsburgh Penguins’ farm team in Wilkes-Barre earlier this week filled in for Letang at the left point of the No. 1 power play during most of the special-teams work the Penguins did, although forward Bryan Rust also got some time on the top power play.
If Letang would be unable to play against New Jersey, Smith — who was acquired from the Devils during the offseason — would be the logical candidate to take his spot in the lineup. It’s not clear how the defense pairings would be configured if that happens. partly because four of the Penguins’ six healthy defensemen would be left-handed shots.
Injured forward Ryan Poehling took part in the workout, including involvement as a penalty-killer in some special-teams drills.
It is not known if he has been cleared to return when the Penguins face New Jersey, although Sullivan said that, aside from Letang, the team’s injured players are “status quo.”
Back to business
The Penguins’ practice, which played out in front of a capacity crowd, looked a lot like most of their other workouts, and players said the mood on the ice and in the dressing room was pretty typical, too, despite the team absorbing a pair of humbling defeats in the past two days.
“We’ve been around long enough,” left winger Jason Zucker said. “We have a pretty old team. We know that it’s unacceptable, what happened yesterday. … We know we need to be better, and I thought we had a good practice today.”
Marcus Pettersson was one of several others to echo that sentiment,
“We’re not happy with these couple of losses and the way that we played,” Pettersson said. “So today was all about trying to get better out there, working on some details. It’s a mood that tells us we want to win and expect a lot from each other.”
Sullivan seems optimistic that, despite those deflating back-to-back losses to the New York Islanders and Detroit, the Pittsburgh Penguins will regain the form that allowed them to climb the standings for much of December.
“I know how capable our group is,” he said. “There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that when we play the game a certain way, we’re a real competitive hockey team that can play with any team in the league. I still believe that.
“We get away from our game, for whatever reason. Sometimes, I think we chase the game a little bit, make it hard on ourselves. We’ve got to try to heed the lessons and get back to doing the things that made us hard to play against and helped us get consistent results.”
Defenseman Jeff Petry, who is on the Long-Term Injured list because of an unspecified upper-body injury, had an on-ice workout with assistant coach Ty Hennes before his teammates practiced.
Petry was using a stick whose shaft was more than a foot shorter than normal. The reason for doing so was not immediately known.
Petry has missed the past seven games. LTI regulations require that players placed on it sit out at least 10 games and 24 days.