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At the Rink: Blackhawks at Penguins

by Wes Crosby /

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang could play against the Chicago Blackhawks at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Letang participated in Pittsburgh's optional morning skate after leaving its game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. Letang sustained an undisclosed injury after Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo hit him into the boards in the first period of the Penguins' 3-2 overtime loss.

Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Letang skated Wednesday to get some activity and that he still is undergoing some tests and will be a game-time decision.

"It's good to see him skating around and looking good out there," Penguins forward Zach Sill said. "I didn't know [if Letang would be OK]. I just saw him this morning and it was good seeing him this morning. But I didn't hear anything last night."

After an injury-plagued 2013-14 season, Letang has rebounded with 32 points, third on the Penguins behind forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Letang's 40 games played are three more than he skated in last season, when he had 22 points in 37 games.

Letang's potential presence in the lineup could be even more valuable while defenseman Simon Despres continues to be unavailable with an undisclosed illness. Despres did not play against Philadelphia and will not play against Chicago, Johnston said.

If Letang is able to play, Pittsburgh's defense pairings could look the same as they did in the first period against Philadelphia. But the forward lines could look slightly different with the potential addition of forward Marcel Goc onto the fourth line after being a healthy scratch Tuesday.

"I thought I've tried to play well on the [penalty kill]," Goc said. "When I get sent out for faceoffs, for the most part I think I've done a reasonable job at that. So hopefully I'm back in tonight and I can show the coach that he should put me in every night."

Johnston complimented Goc's penalty-killing ability and defensive awareness, but said Pittsburgh attempted to insert some more energy and physicality into the lineup with the addition of forward Bobby Farnham on Tuesday. Farnham was reassigned to the American Hockey League on Wednesday, which reopens a spot for Goc on the fourth line.

The Blackhawks also played Tuesday and did not hold a morning skate Wednesday. After allowing six goals in a loss against the Dallas Stars on Sunday, Chicago scored six of its own in a 6-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday as Joel Quenneville coached his 500th game for the Blackhawks. Quenneville is 297-142-61 with Chicago.

"The Blackhawks, you look at how they've been playing lately and they generate a lot of shots," Johnston said. "They're a dangerous team in transition. Their defense are very active. They have four of the better defensemen in the League. So we've got to work our matchups and really try and work their group. But it's transition opportunities, it's offensive zone, it's controlling their defense.

"Those are the real keys to the game tonight."

Here are the projected lineups:


Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Patrick Sharp - Brad Richards - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Teuvo Teravainen - Andrew Shaw

Joakim Nordstrom - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - David Rundblad

Niklas Hjalmarsson - Brent Seabrook

Michal Rozsival - Johnny Oduya

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Tim Erixon

Suspended: Daniel Carcillo

Injured: Trevor van Riemsdyk (left patella fracture), Kris Versteeg (left hand)


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - David Perron

Nick Spaling - Evgeni Malkin - Beau Bennett

Mark Arcobello - Brandon Sutter - Steve Downie

Zach Sill - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams

Paul Martin - Kris Letang

Scott Harrington - Christian Ehrhoff

Rob Scuderi - Robert Bortuzzo

Marc-Andre Fleury

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Andrew Ebbett, Derrick Pouliot

Injured: Simon Despres (illness), Patric Hornqvist (upper body), Blake Comeau (upper body), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Olli Maatta (upper body)

Status report: Pittsburgh recalled Pouliot from the AHL on Tuesday. He has one goal and three points in seven NHL games this season.

Who's hot: Malkin had an assist against Philadelphia on Tuesday and has scored at least one point in five of his past six games. He is tied with Crosby for the Penguins lead in points with 51. … Kane scored his 200th career goal against Arizona on Tuesday. He leads Chicago with 22 goals.

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