Penguins’ Kris Letang practices, hopes to play Thursday

November 23, 2018

Kris Letang said he called on adrenaline Saturday night to help him skate through the pain after a knee-on-knee collision with Vancouver Canucks center Tim Schaller.

After one game out of the lineup -- the 6-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday night -- Letang was back at practice Wednesday afternoon, skating hard, moving the puck and offering encouragement to himself and coach Mike Sullivan that he might play in Thursday’s rematch on Long Island.

No promises, of course, but Letang put the lower-body injury through a few tests and said he felt good. Letang traveled with his teammates Wednesday.

“Depends on how I feel (Thursday) morning when I wake up,” he said.

“I tested it a little bit (before practice) just to see if I was able to skate with the guys,” he said. “It went pretty well after that.”

He said he skated hard without limitations.

That wasn’t the case Saturday. After the collision with Schaller that Letang said was not dirty, Letang returned to finish the game after getting treatment in the locker room. He missed only a few shifts.

He said he struggled “a little bit ... it was fine.”

Considering the nature of the injury, Letang said he initially was “kind of scared.”

“But I was able to finish. I had a chat with the docs,” he said.

Letang’s quick recovery is good news for the Penguins, who start a busy stretch of games Thursday.

They play four Eastern Conference opponents -- the Islanders, Maple Leafts, Devils and Capitals -- in a seven-day stretch through Wednesday. In November, they play 13 games after having 10 in October.

After the upcoming four-game stretch, the Penguins play the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 10. Then, they start playing on alternating days Nov. 13-21 before their first back-to-back games of the season Nov. 23 and 24 in Boston and at PPG Paints Arena against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

That’s the way Jake Guentzel likes it.

“You get more in a routine and rhythm,” he said.

Sidney Crosby appears eager to attack a more meaty schedule.

“We’ve had some good rest between games, a time to prepare,” he said. “I think getting some games and applying that will be good. We want to build some momentum. That’s a good way to do it.”

Sullivan said the busy schedule gives his team (6-2-2 and atop the Metropolitan Division) a chance “to get in a groove.”

“Players are excited to play. l think that’s when our team is at its best.”

That’s a state that would be difficult to reach without Letang, who leads the team in average ice time per game (25 minutes, 33 seconds), well above the runner-up, Brian Dumoulin (21:39).

“He plays almost half the game out there,” Crosby said. “He’s a big part of our team on both ends of the ice. It’s good to see him feeling good and out there with us.”

Said Sullivan: “Tanger is so vitally important to every aspect of our game. Having that said, we believe we have capable people (as replacements). “None of us in this room are suggesting we use that as an excuse.”

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