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Penguins' Letang respects suspension ruling

Pittsburgh defenseman to sit out Game 4 after hit on Washington's Johansson

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said he understands the reasoning behind his one-game suspension.

The NHL Department of Player Safety suspended Letang for one game Tuesday, meaning he'll miss Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Washington Capitals at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 2-1.

The punishment was the result of a hit on Capitals forward Marcus Johansson late in the first period of Game 3 on Monday.

"I respect it," Letang said Wednesday. "The game, it happens so fast. There are a lot of things that are reviewable and I respect the decision. I have no other choice but to wait for the decision, so I'll take the one game and keep working and come back for Game 5."

Video: Letang, teammates react to 1-game suspension

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Johansson will be available for Game 4 despite missing the morning skate Wednesday and not practicing Tuesday.

Letang said he never meant to hurt Johansson.

"There's no malicious intention there," he said. "If you look at it, I stride in front of him. The result of it was the result of it, but I just want to say there was no malicious intent."

Letang is averaging 29:13 of ice time per game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and leads Penguins defenseman with seven points in eight games. The Penguins realize they'll face a sizable test without Letang in Game 4.

"He plays 30 minutes a night, so he's on in a lot of different situations," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "Guys will have to chip in and find ways to eat up those minutes in different areas. As far as how we play as a team, I don't think that changes. We definitely have to have everybody step up in his absence."

Video: Caps talk Letang, solving Matt Murray

The hole left by Letang won't impact the Capitals' game plan, Washington forward Tom Wilson said.

"He's one of the best players in the League for a reason," Wilson said. "He's a great [defenseman] and it's going to be a little bit of a different look, but we won't change our mentality too much. We're going to continue to get in and try and make those other [defensemen] work a little hard through tough situations. We want to make their lives difficult so that doesn't change for us."

Pittsburgh went 2-8-1 without Letang this season, but he is confident in his teammates' ability to win Game 4.

"I let them do what they do and they're focused on what they have to do tonight," Letang said. "So I'm just working during the day I'm not playing."

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