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Insider Only Thursday’s Pens Buzz: With Letang out, Despres should get hard look in top-6; Staal being a regular at wing with Crosby unlikely come playoff time

THURSDAY’S PENS BUZZ
LETANG HAS SYMPTOMSKris Letang did not practice today and head coach Dan Bylsma told the media in Denver that Letang is dealing with symptoms and will be re-evaluated back in Pittsburgh. Letang previously suffered a concussion on Nov 26 and it sounds like he has another one.
NO SUSPENSION FOR NYSTROM: — Stars winger Eric Nystrom will not be suspended or fined for his hit on Kris Letang (concussion like symptoms) in Wednesday’s game. It’s the right call from the standpoint that Nystrom didn’t appear to target Letang’s head. Too many times in this league defensemen are showing bad fundamentals getting caught with their head down like Letang did and that has to factor into things. The only issue I had with the hit was Nystrom showing no interest in going for the puck, but it’s a play that still belongs in the game.
DESPRES DESERVES LOOK IN TOP-6: If Letang is out long-term with concussion like symptoms, the Penguins would have to think pretty hard of bringing up Simon Despres for the final 19 regular season games and grooming him for a playoff run.

A top-6 of Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek, Matt Niskanen, Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy wouldn’t get it done during the playoffs. There are some in the organization who feel Despres is one of the Penguins top-6 defensemen right now, but they obviously want him to get top pairing minutes and special teams time in Wilkes Barre. A long-term injury to Letang will change things.
STAAL WITH CROSBY? — As Sidney Crosby tries to work his way back for another return to the lineup, there is going to be a ton of buzz in the coming weeks of Jordan Staal moving to Crosby’s wing.
Staal’s progression as a goal scorer, in addition to his size and strength makes him skating at wing with Crosby an intriguing scenario. However, don’t count on it being a regular fit.
While it’s certainly possible Bylsma goes in that direction in certain situations, the most likely scenario is the team breaking up the top line of Chris Kunitz – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal and having Malkin/Neal stay together and Crosby/Kunitz playing together, filling in the two remaining spots with the likes of Steve Sullivan, Pascal Dupuis or Tyler Kennedy.
Bylsma is always drawn to the line of Matt Cooke – Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy come playoff time and it’s hard to see him going away from that unit if Crosby is healthy during the playoffs.
Imagine Joe Vitale getting a third line center shutdown matchup against lets say Claude Giroux or Jason Spezza in the first round of the playoffs — Not going to happen.
The inability to acquire a reliable defensive third line center at the trade deadline who can matchup against the oppositions top line is going to hinder Staal being a regular at wing with Crosby.
PRACTICE NOTES
*In addition to Kris Letang, Steve Sullivan was also among those not practicing today in Denver. Sullivan left yesterday’s game with a lower body injury.

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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