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Insider Only Post-Practice Buzz: Letang could return vs Senators; Niskanen more of a longshot?

8471724 POST-PRACTICE BUZZ

Kris Letang who has missed the last three games due to a groin injury, was a full participant in Tuesday’s practice at the Consol Energy Center.
Letang skated as the 4th pairing with Matt Niskanen and also saw time on the second power play unit. If his injury responds well after today’s full skate, the chances are good of Letang returning to the lineup tomorrow night against the Ottawa Senators at home, but no decision on Letang is going to be made until after the morning skate.
“We’ll talk right now and tomorrow morning after morning skate,” Letang said of speaking with his doctors on whether he might play tomorrow.
Head coach Dan Bylsma was pleased with how Letang looked. “Kris Letang had a full day,” Bylsma said. “We had some contact drills, some D-zone, and it was a pretty stressful day on a lower body injury and he did pretty well.”
The chances are also good of Matt Niskanen returning to the lineup at somepoint this week. Niskanen was a full participant today and has missed the last eight games due to an ankle injury. There was some initial fear two weeks ago that his injury could be more of a four week injury, but he’s progressed very nicely, 17 days in. His skating, though, most notably ability to cut on cross-overs, doesn’t look 100% yet so I’d be a bit surprised to see him play tomorrow but there’s a strong sense he’s on track to return by Friday night vs Winnipeg or Sunday afternoon vs Buffalo.
The likely returns of Letang and Niskanen will push two defensemen out of the lineup. One will be Dylan Reese who will be sent back to Wilkes Barre but today’s practice wasn’t a good indication of how things will shakeup as Letang and Niskanen worked as the extra pair.

BOYCHUK REMAINS ON SECOND LINE

The way Dan Bylsma talked Sunday night, it wasn’t a surprise to see Zach Boychuk remaining on the second line in today’s practice with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. Boychuk, Malkin and Neal were a minus-6 in Sunday’s loss.
The top-4 lines remained the same:
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Zach Boychuk – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Matt Cooke – Brandon Sutter – Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass – Dustin Jeffrey – Craig Adams
IS JOE VITALE IN THE DOG HOUSE?
Joe Vitale a healthy scratch Sunday night, was skating on the fifth line as the extra forward today. We’ll see how things shake out in the morning skate but it appears Vitale might be in Bylsma’s dog house.
One thing the Penguins are looking for is some scoring from the 4th line. Last season, the departed Richard Park had 7 goals in 64 games, while Arron Asham had 5 goals in 64 games. The Penguins were able to count on a goal every once in while and so far this season, they are getting nothing with 4th liners Glass, Adams, Vitale and Jeffrey having no goals on the season.
Meanwhile, there’s no signs of Eric Tangradi getting back in the lineup. He appears poised to be scratched for the 9th straight game tomorrow. A staggering stat for Tangradi is having just 6 hits in five games this season.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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