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Pittsburgh didn’t exactly ease Kris Letang back into the lineup

Jan 20, 2012, 1:26 PM EDT

Kris Letang

Upon learning star defenseman Kris Letang would be made available for the first time in 21 games, Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said he would use Letang in a top-four defenseman role against the Rangers.

Turns out it was more a “top defenseman” role.

Letang played a team-high 24:17 in last night’s 4-1 win over New York, recording an assist while finishing plus-2. It was a rather epic workload for the 24-year-old rearguard, who hadn’t played since Nov. 26 due to a concussion.

“It was a good game, a good test, to see if I’m in shape, I guess,” Letang told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I felt pretty good out there.”

The timing of Letang’s return was interesting given Pittsburgh’s opponent. The Rangers recently returned a concussed defenseman of their own — Marc Staal, who made his season debut at the 2012 Winter Classic — but integrated him into the lineup as a much more methodical pace than Pittsburgh did with Letang.

Staal played just 12:41 in his first game back, steadily building to the point where head coach John Tortorella felt comfortable giving Staal his usual big minutes — he averaged 25:44 last year.

(Note: Staal’s first big-minute game of the season occurred last night against Pittsburgh as he played 24:58, a season-high. The irony!)

Looking ahead, it’ll be curious to see how Bylsma handles Letang’s minutes tonight against Montreal. It’s Pittsburgh’s second game of a back-to-back and emotions will likely be running high, as Canadiens’ forward Max Pacioretty was the player responsible for concussing Letang back in November.

  1. pittsburghpoonslayer - Jan 20, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    bringin the cup back to the burgh this year

    • odj810 - Jan 20, 2012 at 2:17 PM

      not without crosby

  2. malkinrulez - Jan 20, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    Geno carrying the load nicely! Bruins look tough but wouldn’t’ dismiss Pens!

  3. pittsburghpoonslayer - Jan 21, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    its unbelievable we are so lucky to have the 2 best players in the world. everyone is so jealous haahaha

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