What's the effect of Staal's injury on Penguins?

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Staal1.jpgPittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens
2:00 p.m. EDT, 2 May, 2010
Live on NBC

Don’t forget, we’ll have a live chat during the game on Pro Hockey Talk at 1:45 p.m. EDT.

While the exact timeframe surrounding the eventual return of Jordan
Staal is unknown — no matter what coach Dan Bylsma may say — we do
know that Staal had surgery on a severed tendon in his foot and will not
be playing for the Penguins for at least the next few games.

This
makes for an interesting challenge for the Penguins, who have been able
to have so much success the past few seasons based on their incredible
depth down the middle. Staal plays the role of the third line center for
the Penguins and is perhaps the best penalty killing forward on the
team.

While he’s just a third line forward, he plays just about
the same minutes as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and is routinely
put on the ice by Bylsma in critical defensive situations. For a player
who is likely forgotten at times while the focus is on other stars on
the team, he is incredible important to the Pittsburgh Penguins?

So
what now for Pittsburgh, as they try and make their way back to the
finals for the third straight year? Replacing Staal isn’t just about
filling in for his defensive play, it’s about finding the production
that Staal provided. This isn’t something the Penguins are used to
either, as he’s played in 383 of the past 384 games since coming to the
NHL.

Behind Crosby and Malkin, he’s become a routine 20-goal,
50-point forward who has honed his defensive skill; not exactly
something a team can replace with just one player stepping up.

Maxime
Talbot is likely going to be asked to take over the third line duties
at center, as his play has certainly picked up after the team entered
the postseason. He has the skill to at produce at level near what’s been
expected of Staal, although he’s never been asked to play the kind of
minutes Staal is known for.

Craig Adams will likely see more time
on the penalty kill, which is where the Penguins will certainly miss
Staal the most. On a team with Crosby and Malkin, finding extra
offensive production — in the short term — is not as scary a
proposition as it would be on other teams. It’s rare that a third line
forward goes down with injury and a team has to scramble to replace him;
this isn’t a case where just one player can step up and replace what
Staal meant to this team.

If Staal misses more than just this series, losing what has made
the Penguins so successful — their depth — will certainly make
repeating that much harder.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

***

As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.