Penguins defenseman Kris Letang has missed three of the past four games with an undisclosed injury, and after missing Friday’s game against Los Angeles with a yet-to-be-announced ailment, Letang will be on the shelf for close to two weeks, if not more.
Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford spoke with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Jonathan Bombulie, but wouldn’t get into the specifics of Letang’s injury. Rutherford said only that the 28-year-old blueliner wasn’t sidelined by a concussion and that the two-week timeline for his return was accurate, adding it could be “a little longer or shorter.”
Letang could be out for anywhere from five to seven games should he miss the full two weeks. The Penguins play five games over the next eight days, including a home-and-home set with the Boston Bruins and divisional outings against the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets.
This is the first time this season Letang has found himself on the shelf, but it’s not altogether surprising that the veteran defenseman will be missing time. Letang’s biggest hurdle throughout his career has been his inability to stay healthy. Just once in nine seasons has Letang played all 82 games, and he has only played more than 70 games in a season three times.
That it’s not a concussion keeping Letang out, though, is fantastic news for both he and the Penguins. Already in his professional career Letang has suffered three documented concussions, including one as recent as March 2015 following a violent collision with Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan.
Letang, like much of the Penguins roster, has struggled this season. Through 25 games, he had scored one goal and 14 points under recently fired coach Mike Johnston. Letang’s points per game have slipped to .56 this season, which is his worst mark since the 2009-10 season.
Losing Letang for an extended period will put even more pressure on an already shaky Penguins defense. This season, Pittsburgh has allowed 31.8 shots against per game, which is the third-worst mark in the NHL. Only the Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators have allowed more pucks through this season. Without Letang, the Penguins will be without their top defenseman and a blueliner who has averaged more than 26 minutes of ice time per game in 2015-16.
The likely top pairing with Letang out will be Olli Maatta and David Warsofsky, while Ben Lovejoy and Brian Dumoulin round out the top four. Ian Cole and Rob Scuderi will skate together as Pittsburgh’s third pairing.