The Pittsburgh Penguins are certainly not lacking for national exposure these days.
Tuesday morning was a continuation of that theme, as Kris Letang was announced as a finalist for the Norris Trophy about an hour before Sports Illustrated revealed Sidney Crosby will be on its national cover this week.
It’s the 26-year-old Letang’s first nomination for the annual award that goes to the “defensive player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position,” according to the NHL.
Despite missing 13 of the Penguins’ 48 games this season, Letang registered 38 points (3g, 33a) to tie Montreal’s P.K. Subban for the NHL’s scoring lead among defensemen. Ryan Suter of Minnesota joins Letang and Subban as Norris finalists.
All NHL award-winners will be announced during the Stanley Cup Final in late June. Members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association vote on the Norris, which has gone to a Penguin only once in franchise history. Current Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle won it in 1981 while wearing the black and gold.
As for Crosby, the Penguins captain is the subject of a cover feature by SI writer Michael Rosenberg. The Chicago Blackhawks appeared on a national cover in March, although the hyperbolic headline rankled many within the hockey community. Crosby’s piece figures to be more straightforward, aided by his dynamic return from a broken jaw last week.
Believe it or not, this will be Crosby’s first national SI cover while wearing a Penguins jersey. He had two covers a month apart in the winter of 2010, as he was the face of Canada’s Olympic program during the Vancouver games. Crosby also appeared on a couple of regional covers during the Penguins’ 2009 Stanley Cup run.
Orpik, Neal skate again, could be back for Game 4
For the second straight day, defenseman Brooks Orpik and winger James Neal took part in an official team practice, this time suiting up for Tuesday’s game-day skate on Long Island. Orpik has missed the Penguins’ past five games with a lower-body injury, while Neal sprained his ankle in last Wednesday’s Game 1 and has been in the press box since.
As expected, coach Dan Bylsma had no official update on their status for Game 4 against the New York Islanders, with the Penguins holding a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven first-round series. However, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic read the tea leaves after talking to a few folks in and around the Penguins dressing room:
VERY strong indications from inside that room that both Orpik and Neal WILL play tonight. Not official, and neither would outright confirm.
— Dejan Kovacevic(@Dejan_Kovacevic) May 7, 2013
The Penguins’ website described Neal taking line rushes at practice with Evgeni Malkin and Beau Bennett, which was the combination in Game 1 before Neal was hurt on a legal check by New York’s Travis Hamonic. Orpik was paired with the minutes-eating Paul Martin on the blueline, a duo that Bylsma went with at various times this season.