Jan 19, 2012, 12:02 PM EDT
Big news out of New York today prior to the Penguins taking on the Rangers at MSG — Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang was paired with Brooks Orpik during the morning skate and practiced with the first power play unit, fueling speculation that he’ll return to the lineup this evening.
Letang hasn’t played since Nov. 26, when he received a concussion after being hit in the head by Montreal’s Max Pacioretty. All told, he’s missed Pittsburgh’s last 21 games and there’s been a dramatic difference in play without him — the Pens were 14-6-4 prior to Letang getting hurt and just 10-11-0 since, not surprising given Letang was a Norris Trophy candidate through the early part of the season (he still leads all Penguins defensemen in scoring.)
Should Letang return to the lineup, it’ll be a huge boost not only to Pittsburgh’s on-ice product but also the club’s overall health. Yes, two of the Penguins’ top three centers are still on injured reserve (Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal) but for a team that’s lost over 200 man games to injury this year, having only two stars on IR isn’t too shabby. The Pens have recently welcomed backed Tyler Kennedy, James Neal and Dustin Jeffrey from their respective injuries and expect Arron Asham to return from illness soon.
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