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Penguins will wait and see on Letang's status

Wednesday, 05.06.2009 / 1:55 PM / Conference Semifinals: Washington vs. Pittsburgh

By Adam Kimelman and Dan Rosen - NHL.com Staff Writers

"Kris looks good. It was a strength issue. He had an injury and immediately the strength went away and strength was coming back yesterday significantly, more so today."
-- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma on defenseman Kris Letang

PITTSBURGH -- When Penguins defenseman Kris Letang left the ice late in the third period of Game 2 Monday night, he was holding his left shoulder and looked to be in tremendous pain.

Fast-forward 48 hours, and there was Letang, in his regular spot during drills at the Wednesday's morning skate prior to Game 3 against the Capitals at Mellon Arena (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).

"Kris looks good," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "It was a strength issue. He had an injury and immediately the strength went away and strength was coming back yesterday significantly, more so today."

Letang has just four assists in the playoffs, with two of them coming on the power play, where he mans the point on the first unit. With the Penguins' extra-man unit finally getting back on track in Game 2, having Letang will be vital for consistency.

Bylsma, as he has done throughout the postseason, refused to comment on the lineup, but did slightly reveal his hand.

"(Letang) is going to be a game-time (decision)," Bylsma said, "but he looked good this morning."

If Letang can't play, Philippe Boucher will see his first action since Game 5 of the Penguins' first-round series against Philadelphia.

Fehr, Erskine both questionable -- There was little news Wednesday morning on Washington's two injured regulars, forward Eric Fehr and defenseman John Erskine.

Fehr did not take the ice during the Capitals morning skate, choosing instead to ride the bicycle. When a reporter asked for a thumbs up or thumbs down on his status, Fehr just shrugged his shoulders.

Michael Nylander was off the ice early Wednesday, an indication that he may be playing in Game 3 and that Fehr would not. Usually if a player comes off the ice early after a morning skate he's playing that night. Nylander hasn't played since Game 2 against the Rangers.

As for Erskine, he was still walking with a significant limp, but he did skate and his normal defensive partner, Brian Pothier, told NHL.com that the hulking defenseman had "good jump out there."

Erskine was off the ice early, but so was Tyler Sloan, which means the Capitals gave no indication of who would play Wednesday night. Sloan played for Erskine in Game 2.

Getting some help -- Secondary scoring for the Penguins has been a hot topic because of its glaring absence. Players like Bill Guerin, Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin and Ruslan Fedotenko know they can do more; they just have to fight the urge to do too much.

"I think it's just important that everyone realizes that if everyone does their job and everyone is accountable out there, you have to think we're going to win," said Sidney Crosby, who has four of the Pens' five goals in the series. "We have to believe that everybody is going to step up in their own way and that's what's going to give us success.

"It's a trust thing. Guys maybe are frustrated, but they have to know it's not all on them. If they miss one or they have a tough shift, it's not the end of the world. The next guys out there are going to back them up and hopefully score one. It's just a trust thing."

Crosby said from what he's seen, he's confident the breaks will come for his teammates.

Capitals/Penguins Playoff Gear Penguins Gear Capitals Gear "The first two games guys are still generating things," he said. "It's not like we had one line out there creating and the rest just wasting time. Guys are out there generating chances. Their goalie made a few nice saves, give him credit, but guys are doing what they need to be successful. The worst thing we can do is get away from what's worked. Although the goals haven't been there, the mentality we need to have has, and that's going to pay off."

Ovie likes Pittsburgh -- Alex Ovechkin probably won't get a warm reaction from Mellon Arena's whiteout crowd Wednesday night, but it won't take away from how he feels about playing in front of those fans in this old building.

"I love playing in a good place and here in Pittsburgh it's a great place to play hockey," Ovechkin said. "The fans are loud and it's going to be a good atmosphere here and it's going to be cool."

Ovechkin has scored six goals and dished out three assists in eight games at Mellon Arena.

Staying strong when it gets late -- Just how close is the series between the Penguins and Capitals? The teams have scored the same number of goals in the first and second periods -- the only difference is in the third, the Caps have outscored the Pens, 3-1.

So is it something the Caps are doing? Or do the Pens need to make a few adjustments?
"I think we can get a little better late in games, play our game for the whole 60 minutes." -- Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy
"I think we can get a little better late in games, play our game for the whole 60 minutes," said forward Tyler Kennedy. "I think it's pretty even, but we've got to work hard and work for everything we get. ... I think they're playing really well (and) I think we're playing well, we're right there."

Pens captain Sidney Crosby said his team didn't have to make any adjustments, just follow their game plan and execute.

"I think they scored to tie it there in the first game, and the last game that's a situation where it's a 2-2 game and they get a big one there," he said. "It's just a matter of who gets the last goal the last couple games. ... They've been able to do that. I don't think we've changed anything. They've taken advantage of their chances and executed and we haven't done that yet."
Quote of the Day

I think Loui Eriksson is a player that can be even better than he was last year. I think we started seeing that at the end of the year, and he could be a replacement for Jarome as a possibility.

— Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien on forward Loui Eriksson's potential