Letang (concussion) will be ready for Pens’ training camp

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Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang says he’s feeling better after suffering a season-ending concussion in late March and, what’s more, is fully confident he’ll be ready to play by the start of next season.

From the Tribune-Review:

The 28-year-old defenseman has suffered multiple concussions, a stroke and has a history of migraine headaches. However, he hasn’t considered having his career cut short by head injuries.

“No concern,” he said. “I’m on my way to coming back. I’m just going through the protocol. I’ll be back on the ice. I missed only a bunch of games once, when I got (a concussion) in Montreal (in 2011). I never missed time for a concussion after that. I’m not really scared.”

Letang said he will be ready for next season.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Oh yeah. Right from training camp.”

Letang missed the Pens’ final six games of the regular season with the concussion, and all five playoff games in an opening-round loss to the Rangers. Prior to getting hurt he was having a banner campaign — a career-high 54 points in 69 games — and was averaging more than 25 minutes a night.

Needless to say, his injury was a crucial blow to the Penguins (along with Olli Maatta and Pascal Dupuis, both of whom also suffered season-ending injuries.) This is part of the reason why Pittsburgh is reportedly giving head coach Mike Johnston and GM Jim Rutherford another kick at the can — CEO David Morehouse  said he’s “never given any consideration” to replacing the pair, citing the team’s man games lost to injury as a big reason why it slumped down the stretch and won just a single playoff game before getting eliminated.

It’s Done: Rangers eliminate Penguins in overtime

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The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers battled fiercely for five games. Each contest was determined by just one goal and the final two went to overtime.

But at the end of the day, the Penguins could only win once and the Rangers officially eliminated them with a 2-1 victory tonight.

Carl Hagelin scored the overtime marker:

This is the sixth straight year Pittsburgh couldn’t get it done in the playoffs. This time around though, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t the story. He did all that could be expected of him in this series, posting a 2.12 GAA and .927 save percentage in five contests.

Instead fingers will likely be pointed at Evgeni Malkin, who fired six shots on goal Friday night but still finished the series without a single point. The Penguins lacked offensive depth in this series as well as Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist accounted for half of Pittsburgh’s eight goals.

At the same time, it would be wrong to ignore the fact that the Penguins were missing defensemen Kris Letang, Christian Ehrhoff, and Olli Maatta as well as forwards Pascal Dupuis and Beau Bennett due to injuries. That’s a lot of talent to be stuck on the sidelines.

Still, another Penguins season that began with Stanley Cup aspirations is over while the Presidents’ Trophy winning Rangers are moving forward. The Rangers fell in the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. They’re one step closer to getting back there now.

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No lineup changes for Penguins, who face elimination tonight

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The Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t making any lineup changes for tonight’s do-or-die game in New York against the Rangers.

Coach Mike Johnston confirmed it this morning, saying the Pens “don’t have any injured players available.”

So no Derrick Pouliot, and no Beau Bennett.

The Penguins trail the Rangers, 3-1. Lose tonight and they’ll be eliminated in the first round for the first time since 2012.

While no team likes to use injuries as an excuse, injuries are indeed a major factor for the Penguins. Three of Pittsburgh’s best defensemen — Kris Letang, Christian Ehrhoff, and Olli Maatta — are out, and star forward Evgeni Malkin has been playing hurt.

“That’s part of the playoffs,” captain Sidney Crosby said, per NHL.com. “That’s what you see around the league, and this time of year it’s not easy. Everyone’s battling through stuff, especially [Malkin]. He gets a lot of attention out there.”

Related: Pens coach draws on personal experience of trailing series 3-1 and winning

Video: Rangers beat Fleury just 28 seconds into series

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The Pittsburgh Penguins limped into the playoffs and that combined with the Penguins missing defensemen Christian Ehrhoff, Kris Letang, Derrick Pouliot, and Olli Maatta to a variety of injuries led to them being cast as the underdogs in their first round series against the New York Rangers.

Of course, as long as the Penguins feature Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, they can’t be ruled out entirely, but they weren’t able to take advantage of the fresh start that the playoffs afforded them.

The Rangers needed just 28 seconds to take a 1-0 lead as Derick Brassard took advantage of a big rebound created by Rick Nash’s shot:

The silver lining when it comes to falling behind early is there is plenty of time to regain the lead. That being said, the Penguins were 10-18-5 in games when they fell behind 1-0 in the regular season.

Ailing Pens to give d-men Chorney, Dumoulin playoff debuts

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Much has been made of Pittsburgh’s banged-up defense — currently without Kris Letang, Christian Ehrhoff, Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot — and tonight, the byproduct of those injuries will be on display as Taylor Chorney and Brian Dumoulin make their playoff debuts against the Rangers.

“Those guys have played a lot together throughout the year,” Pens head coach Mike Johnston said, explaining that Chorney and Dumoulin would play together as a defensive pair. “Putting those two together is natural for us.

“Dumoulin moves the puck well and can skate. Chorney’s playing at the top of his game right now.”

Kudos to Johnston for such a positive spin, but it’s hard to imagine he’s truly pleased at this development. Chorney, 27, has bounced around organizations over the last four years and, prior to playing seven games for Pittsburgh this season, hadn’t skated in the NHL since 2012.

Dumoulin, 23, has just 14 big-league games on his resume. He and Chorney have spent the majority of this season in AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

“It’s a really exciting time and place to play,” Dumoulin said, per the Penguins website. “A lot of nerves, excitement. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Johnston actually has six healthy defensemen at his disposal (which wasn’t always the case this season) and, with Dumoulin and Chorney as a pairing, he can limit their minutes and load up the top four of Paul Martin, Rob Scuderi, Ben Lovejoy and Ian Cole.

But that might be it as far as silver linings go.