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Penguins' Letang ready to go for Game 5

Defenseman back from one-game suspension to face Capitals on Saturday

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang is eager to return against the Washington Capitals.

Letang will play in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Capitals at Verizon Center on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports) after serving a one-game suspension for his hit on Washington forward Marcus Johansson in the first period of Game 3 on Monday.

Since the suspension was announced Tuesday by the NHL Department of Player Safety, Letang has skated twice; during the morning skate Wednesday and again Friday.

"It's nice to be a part of a practice with all the guys," Letang said Friday. "I'll just forget about what happened."

The Penguins defense performed well without their leader Wednesday in a 3-2 overtime win that gave Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. The effort impressed Letang, who watched from the press box.

"I think we did pretty well," Letang said. "I think it's probably the last time I want to watch a hockey game from up top. It's a little nerve-wracking. You want to be out there, but they did an unbelievable job. They did a lot of sacrifice on the ice. They played a great team game."

Defenseman Trevor Daley was most burdened by Letang's absence, but adequately filled his role throughout a Penguins-high 28:41 of ice time across 35 shifts. Daley scored the Penguins' first goal, tying the game 1-1 at 9:16 of the first period.

Letang complimented Daley, who served as his defense partner during practice Friday.

"It's fun to play with him," Letang said. "Obviously, he has a lot of experience. He's a really good player, a really good skater out there. He does so many things well. He's a smart player. He plays all the areas on the ice really well. He's good 1-on-1. He's a good skater. He can break the puck out easily with his skating on the ice. It's fun to watch him play." 

Letang returned to the point on Pittsburgh's top power-play unit Friday with forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist. Despite going 0-for-14 with the man-advantage this series, Letang said the Penguins shouldn't panic.

"I think, up to this point, it hasn't affected the outcome," Crosby said. "We understand it has to be better, but we can look at it as we're fortunate it hasn't been the difference."

Forward Eric Fehr also will return to the Penguins lineup. He did not play in Game 4 because of an undisclosed reason, and returned to right wing in practice alongside center Evgeni Malkin and left wing Chris Kunitz.

Fehr, who spent nine of his first 10 seasons in Washington, said he would be ready to play Saturday.

"It was tough to watch, but the guys did a great job," Fehr said. "They fought the whole game and I really liked watching our 'D,' the way they shared the minutes and really stepped up." 

Letang and Fehr would have rather played Wednesday, but Letang said having an aerial view of the action does have some benefit. 

"There are a lot of things you can learn," Letang said. "The game is so much taller from up top that you can see all that happens on the ice at one time."

With that said, Letang would prefer to have been on the ice when Hornqvist scored the game-winning goal 2:34 into overtime.

"For myself, I see black [score] and it's just pure joy, obviously," Letang said. "Everybody in the dressing room wants to be a part of bringing something to the table and wants to help to win. When you help to win a game with a big goal, it's always a fun feeling."

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