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Letang, Martin expected to play for Penguins

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators enter Friday with three-game losing streaks. One of the teams will snap its skid when they meet at Consol Energy Center.

After averaging 3.13 non-shootout goals per game through its first 15 games, Pittsburgh's offense has slowed considerably, scoring one goal in each of its past three games. The Penguins haven't scored an even-strength goal in their past three games and will attempt to avoid extending that drought against the NHL's 25th-ranked defense.

"We have to stay to our game plan and stay to our systems and stick to the little things and keep working," Penguins forward James Neal said. "That's the only way to get through it."

The Penguins are not convinced the 3.06 goals per game allowed by the Predators is indicative of Nashville's skill and are preparing to battle for scoring chances.

"They [the Predators] have been on the road for what to us would seem like forever," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "They've been on the road an awful lot and now they're coming into our building. We know what they're bringing. In particular their defense, [Shea] Weber and [Seth] Jones, seeing Seth Jones for the first time in the last couple weeks and how he's played, but they're a big part of their team and we're looking to see that from them."

The Predators will play their final game of a seven-game road stretch Friday before returning to Nashville for the first time since Oct. 26 to face the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. Their offense has struggled worse than Pittsburgh's, scoring one goal in the past three games.

"We know we need to win," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "The rest of the pack is starting to pull away and we have games in hand on a number of teams, but they don't mean anything if you don't win some games."

Jones said the team's morale hasn't suffered despite its recent setbacks.

"We're in a little bit of a tough spot right now but the guys are staying positive in our room," Jones said. "We know if we play our game we can come out on top."

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang sat out Pittsburgh's morning skate Friday with an illness but Bylsma said he is probable to play against Nashville. After missing two games with a lower-body injury, defenseman Paul Martin is expected to return to the lineup and reform his pairing with Brooks Orpik.

Here are the expected lineups for the Penguins and Predators:


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis

Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal

Beau Bennett - Brandon Sutter - Matt D'Agostini

Tanner Glass - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Olli Maatta - Kris Letang

Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin

Matt Niskanen - Robert Bortuzzo

Marc-Andre Fleury

Jeff Zatkoff

Scratched: Dustin Jeffrey, Deryk Engelland

Injured: Chuck Kobasew (lower body), Rob Scuderi (ankle), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis)


Gabriel Bourque - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist

Colin Wilson - Nick Spaling - Viktor Stalberg

Eric Nystrom - Matt Cullen - Filip Forsberg

Matt Hendricks - Paul Gaustad - Craig Smith

Seth Jones - Shea Weber

Roman Josi - Kevin Klein

Victor Bartley - Ryan Ellis

Marek Mazanec

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Rich Clune, Mattias Ekholm

Injured: Pekka Rinne (hip), Mike Fisher (lower body)

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