NHL on NBCSN: Letang-less Pens look for eighth straight win in battle with Kings

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Los Angeles Kings at 7:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

Things have been going pretty well for the Pittsburgh Penguins of late (that’s probably an understatement).

The defending Stanley Cup champions have rattled off seven straight wins and they currently sit at the top of the Eastern Conference standings with 43 points in 30 games.

The next few weeks might be a little more challenging for them though, as their schedule is filled with some tough matchups. Also, they’ll be without number one defenseman Kris Letang for most (if not all) of that stretch.

It’s unclear when the injury occurred exactly, but according to the Pittsburgh Tribune, it may have happened when he was sent into the boards awkwardly by David Backes during Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins.

Pittsburgh will face the Kings tonight, the Maple Leafs tomorrow, and then they’ll play five straight games against Metropolitan Division teams (Rangers, Jackets, Devils, Devils, Hurricanes) before taking on the top team in the Atlantic Division, the Montreal Canadiens.

Of course, the Pens have been so successful this year because they’ve received contributions from more than just one player.

Letang has accumulated 19 points in 25 games in 2016-17, but it’ll be up to guys like Justin Schultz, Ian Cole, Brian Dumoulin and Trevor Daley to pick up the slack on defense while he’s gone.

Having a strong cast of forwards like the red-hot Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Conor Sheary and Patrik Hornqvist also helps.

Los Angeles may not be on a long winning like Pittsburgh is, but they’re still 6-3-1 in their last 10 contests.

As if a matchup against Pittsburgh isn’t difficult enough these days, the Kings will have to face them after playing in Detroit last night. The Kings came away with an encouraging 4-1 over the Red Wings just days after being dismantled by the Sabres, 6-3.

The Kings are now two games into their grueling nine-game road trip. That’s a long time to be away from home, but head coach Darryl Sutter doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal.

“I don’t look at it as a long trip,” Sutter said, per lakingsinsider.com. “I think everybody made a big deal out of it. It’s unfortunate for some of the people who aren’t used to traveling and things like that. You’ve got to play 41. At the end of the season, it’s 82, so it doesn’t matter if you go for four or you go for five or you go for seven or you go for 10. I’ve had a lot longer road trips than this.”

It’ll be interesting to see if the Kings go back to former Pens goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who was solid in last night’s win over Detroit.

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