March 11, 2012; Pittsburgh,PA, USA: Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) with the puck against the Boston Bruins during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pens won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE

Report: Niskanen out, Despres in for Penguins vs. Islanders

In Sunday’s 2-1 shootout win at Ottawa, the Penguins defense corps capably filled in for the absence of Matt Niskanen, who awkwardly crashed feet-first into the Scotiabank Place boards in the first period and did not return.

As it turns out, they’ll have to do without the right-handed shooting 26-year-old for a bit longer.

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Josh Yohe, Niskanen will be sidelined for several games with an ankle injury:

Reports from the Penguins’ morning skate revealed that 21-year-old Simon Despres took line rushes alongside Kris Letang, indicating that Despres will replace Niskanen in the lineup for tonight’s home matchup with the New York Islanders.

Despres played in the Penguins’ first three games of this shortened season, although he averaged only about 10 minutes of ice time per outing. He was scratched in favor of Ben Lovejoy for the team’s just-completed two-game trip to Winnipeg and Ottawa.

As was the case last season for Despres, he was protected against top opposition in this season’s first three games. Also, the 2009 first-round pick hasn’t seen significant time during special-teams play and has appeared tentative in pressurized situations.

Despite that, the Penguins may have to rely upon Despres a little more than they have been, since top defensemen Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Letang have each been logging close to 30 minutes per game thus far. That kind of pace is unsustainable, making it necessary for Pittsburgh to give more responsibility to the likes of Despres, Lovejoy and Deryk Engelland, especially with Niskanen out.

This situation should blunt recent trade rumors involving Despres, although a personnel move or two wouldn’t be surprising over the next couple of weeks.

Penguins, CONSOL Energy Center to host 2013 All-American Prospects Game

The Penguins, in conjunction with USA Hockey, announced today that CONSOL Energy Center will welcome America’s top 2014 NHL Draft-eligible talent in September when the second-annual All-American Prospects Game comes to town.

As initially reported by the Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi, this development simply extends a prolific period for major hockey events in Pittsburgh. Starting with last summer’s NHL Draft and continuing through December’s inaugural Three Rivers Classic college tournament and the upcoming NCAA Frozen Four, CONSOL Energy Center has become a hub for the area’s ongoing hockey awakening.

Buffalo’s First Niagara Center hosted last year’s All-American Prospects game, as junior hockey stars like possible 2013 No. 1 pick Seth Jones put their talents on display for fans and scouts. The exact date for this year’s showcase is to be determined.

Rossi also reported that the Penguins and CONSOL Energy Center are trying to bring the 2018 World Junior Championship to western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh natives John Gibson, J.T. Miller, Vincent Trocheck and Riley Barber helped Team USA capture its second WJC title in four years earlier this month in Ufa, Russia.

Tags: Matt Niskanen Pittsburgh Penguins Simon Despres USA Hockey

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