The Pittsburgh Penguins had the weekend off and return to the ice on Monday at 11:00 a.m. at Southpointe before the team embarks on a three game road trip that starts Tuesday night against the struggling Carolina Hurricanes.
The Penguins are preparing not to have James Neal for the start of the road trip but expect Kris Letang to travel with the team on the road trip and possibly play as early as Tuesday night. Letang has broken toes and has been dealing with a nagging groin injury since early February. Letang skated this week on his own going through individual workouts and showed no limitations.
Letang is no longer the highest scoring defenseman in the NHL as PK Subban has overtaken him with 32 points and a +13 rating in 32 games, averaging a point per game. Letang is also averaging a point per game with 28 points and a +11 rating in 28 games but the buzz among voters with 20 days remaining in the regular season is that Subban and Minnesota Ryan Suter have overtaken Letang as the front runners to win the Norris Trophy.
WHERE DOES BENNETT FIT WITH NEAL SIDELINED?
The Penguins, as expected, recalled Beau Bennett today due to James Neal’s injury and Bennett is in Pittsburgh and will practice tomorrow and travel with the team.
Bennett has appeared in 19 NHL games with the Penguins collecting 2 goals and 7 assists and a +7 rating. Bennett had 3 assists in four games during his most recent AHL assignment.
With Neal injured, Jarome Iginla will slide over to right wing and the most obvious fit for Bennett is at left wing with Malkin and Iginla, leaving Kunitz – Jokinen – Dupuis and Morrow – Sutter – Cooke together.
Bylsma has talked in the past of being comfortable and believing Bennett can play a third line role because of his all around play but I’d be surprised if Bylsma has much interest in breaking up Morrow – Sutter and Cooke with the Penguins now hitting the stretch run. The Penguins should be getting a motivated Bennett who had been re-assigned previously due to a numbers game on the depth chart as the Penguins made three forward additions prior to the trade deadline.