A new face will be in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lineup Friday night, but two familiar players will be out yet again.
Center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang both skated at varying levels of intensity Friday morning at Consol Energy Center, but both will be in the press box for the Pens’ 7 p.m. faceoff against the New York Rangers. Letang’s absence will make it 10 straight games without last year’s Norris Trophy finalist, while Malkin will sit out his ninth in a row.
For what it’s worth, Letang seemed to be the closer of the two to returning, as he alternated line rushes on the third defense pairing with Olli Maatta and Matt Niskanen. Unlike Thursday, Letang didn’t participate in power-play drills. He has been out since mid-December with an infected wound in his arm.
Penguins strength coach Mike Kadar put Malkin through a workout prior to the team’s practice; fellow injured forward Jayson Megna joined the fun. Malkin has missed the past three weeks’ worth of games with what’s been reported as a soft-tissue ailment in his left leg.
Pittsburgh’s new waiver acquisition Taylor Pyatt will face his former team as the left wing on the Pens’ third line. Pyatt, instantly the team’s tallest forward at 6-foot-4, had Joe Vitale as his center and Craig Adams on the opposite wing during the morning skate.
Also of interest, defenseman Deryk Engelland took alternating shifts with the No. 4 forward line, swapping with Chuck Kobasew on right wing. Engelland has played a few games at forward this year, and even scored a goal up front, but his status is uncertain for Friday night. Marc-Andre Fleury will be in net against the Rangers.
Finally, Sidney Crosby was named the NHL’s No. 2 star of December on Friday afternoon. Crosby, who leads the NHL with 59 points, registered nine goals and 14 assists as the Pens won 11 of 14 games in the final month of 2013. Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks (7g, 16a in December) was No. 1 star for the second straight month.
Tonight’s game: Penguins (29-12-1, 49 points – 1st Metropolitan) vs. Rangers (20-19-2, 42 points – 5th Metro) at Consol Energy Center. Root Sports Pittsburgh and 105.9 The X have the game broadcasts.
Gospel of Hockey returns for 2014
Larry Snyder and I welcomed Ian Altenbaugh of Hockey’s Future to the Gospel of Hockey, the official podcast of record for Pittsburgh-area pucks. We discussed our recent coverage of the Three Rivers Classic, plus the Penguins’ trade prospects, the United States Olympic teams and more.
Larry and I also delivered their usual Local Hockey Report, focusing on college, junior and minor-pro teams in the region: