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Stanley Cup Final

Penguins' Letang, Bonino will play in Game 1

Each missed practice Sunday but will be ready for start of Stanley Cup Final against Sharks

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and center Nick Bonino will play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the San Jose Sharks at Consol Energy Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET;  NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

Letang, who has averaged 28:46 per game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the most among defensemen in the Final, did not skate during practice Sunday or during the optional skate Monday. He also did not take part in Media Day on Sunday.

Those absences led to speculation that Letang might be injured, but Letang said Monday that he was ready to play in Game 1.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan also tried to dampen the speculation that his top defenseman might be less than 100 percent.

Asked about his confidence level that Letang can play the effective 200-foot game that has him among the leading candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy, Sullivan said: "Very confident."

Letang has two goals, eight assists and a plus-4 rating in 17 playoff games. He played 28:13 on Thursday in a 2-1 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Letang said he is focused on the Sharks and finding a way to help the Penguins win the best-of-7 series. He knows people are speculating about his injury and comparing him to Brent Burns, the No. 1 defenseman for the Sharks, but Game 1 is all that is on his mind.

"I just focus on my game," Letang said. "For sure, I want to be the best defenseman out there every night, but I have to stay the course and play my game."

Bonino, who centers the "HBK Line" with Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel on the wings, was injured blocking a shot in Game 7 against the Lightning and missed practice Sunday, but he declared himself fit for Game 1 after taking part in the morning skate.

"This time of year, unless you can't be out there for a really serious reason, you are going to try to play," Bonino said.

Bonino is a critical part of the Penguins' depth, allowing them to deploy three lines with speed and offensive punch. Bonino has three goals and 15 points, tied for second-most on Pittsburgh (Kessel, 18; Evgeni Malkin, 15), in 18 playoff games.

"It was great to see him back," Hagelin said. "There's no doubt in my mind that he wasn't (not) going to play the first game."

Bonino also is used extensively to take faceoffs, a skill that will be important against a San Jose team that feeds off possession of the puck.

"He won some big draws for us at the end [of Game 7] and he's going to be key going down the stretch here," Hagelin said.

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