Kris Letang

Pittsburgh didn’t exactly ease Kris Letang back into the lineup


Upon learning star defenseman Kris Letang would be made available for the first time in 21 games, Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said he would use Letang in a top-four defenseman role against the Rangers.

Turns out it was more a “top defenseman” role.

Letang played a team-high 24:17 in last night’s 4-1 win over New York, recording an assist while finishing plus-2. It was a rather epic workload for the 24-year-old rearguard, who hadn’t played since Nov. 26 due to a concussion.

“It was a good game, a good test, to see if I’m in shape, I guess,” Letang told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I felt pretty good out there.”

The timing of Letang’s return was interesting given Pittsburgh’s opponent. The Rangers recently returned a concussed defenseman of their own — Marc Staal, who made his season debut at the 2012 Winter Classic — but integrated him into the lineup as a much more methodical pace than Pittsburgh did with Letang.

Staal played just 12:41 in his first game back, steadily building to the point where head coach John Tortorella felt comfortable giving Staal his usual big minutes — he averaged 25:44 last year.

(Note: Staal’s first big-minute game of the season occurred last night against Pittsburgh as he played 24:58, a season-high. The irony!)

Looking ahead, it’ll be curious to see how Bylsma handles Letang’s minutes tonight against Montreal. It’s Pittsburgh’s second game of a back-to-back and emotions will likely be running high, as Canadiens’ forward Max Pacioretty was the player responsible for concussing Letang back in November.

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan


Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?