The Pittsburgh Penguins face the Washington Capitals in Game 4 of their Stanley Cup Playoff Series Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.
Kris Letang faced the music Tuesday morning for his late hit on the Capitals Marcus Johansson. The NHL Department of Player Safety handed the veteran defenseman a 1 game suspended, keeping him out of the lineup for Game 4. The hit occurred early in the first period of the Penguins 3-2 victory over the Capitals.
Like Brook Orpik’s hit to the head on Olli Maatta, Letang was only assessed a two minute minor for his reckless hit. Johansson would stay in the game following the hit but complained of a sore neck afterwards. He missed the Capital’s morning skate while still being evaluated. Orpik was suspended three games for his hit on Maata, who status is up in the air for Game 4 after missing Monday’s game.
This is not Letang’s first suspension by the NHL. He was suspended for boarding Winnipeg Jet center Alexander Burmistrov in October 2011. Letang served a two game suspension and was given a two minute during the game for the hit.
The Penguins will miss Letang’s presence in Game 4 more than the Capitals have missed Orpik. While the former Penguin has struggled for much of the playoffs after returning from injury, the team’s current star defender has been a key component in the attack. Over the past 5 games, Letang has 4 assists, 14 shots on net and a plus/minus of 2. He has averaged 37 minutes of ice time in those games.
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In Game 4, the young bucks of the Penguins will have to continue to step up as they have had to all season. Matt Murray was the savior in the team’s win Monday night, saving an incredible 47 shots. The defense played exceptionally well in front of the 21 year old, but could be without the shot blocking and energy of Bryan Rust after he took a puck off his shin seconds into Game 3. He did not return to the game.
The Capitals dominated much of Game 3 though they could not get anything past Murray. Look for them to come out guns blazing in Game 4 to avoid going back to Washington down 3-1.