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Penguins' Letang to make season debut

by Wes Crosby /

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins enter the weekend owners of the NHL's sixth-best defense, allowing 2.22 goals per game. Pittsburgh will look to improve its defense further by adding All-Star defenseman Kris Letang to its lineup Friday.

Letang will make his season debut Friday against the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center after missing the Penguins' first nine games with a lower-body injury. He will skate on Pittsburgh's top defensive pairing with Rob Scuderi and its top power-play unit.

"Rob is a stay-at-home defenseman. He has a good first pass," Letang said. "He reads the play really well, defends against the best player every year and has done a pretty good job at it, so it's going to be fun for me to play with him."

Letang, whose 38 points were tied with the Montreal Canadiens' P.K. Subban for most by an NHL defenseman, said he thinks he will be able to play the 20-plus minutes usually expected of him.

"It's exciting, especially with the team's success," he said. "I've been watching every game from the press box and I am just excited to be a part of the team on the ice and try to help them win."

The Penguins will dress seven defensemen, but Deryk Engelland will play right wing on Pittsburgh's fourth line, which Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said is "not anything to do with it being Kris Letang's first game back."

Pittsburgh needed six games to eliminate the Islanders in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. Bylsma said the Islanders proved they were a formidable opponent during that series and expects them to play with the same intensity Friday.

"I think you can look back and focus on the Islanders, certainly, were the eighth seed against the one seed and were maybe not expected to give us very much of a problem," Bylsma said. "But they did and they played hard and they played with a lot of speed."

Islanders coach Jack Capuano said his players might have been reminded of their early playoff exit when entering Consol Energy Center on Friday.

"They [the Penguins] are a hard-working team," Capuano said. "Dan and his staff believe in a certain way to play. They don't change a whole lot and they're very successful with the way they play.

"For us it's about matching their intensity level and make sure we do the right things."

Evgeni Nabokov will start in goal for the Islanders for the ninth time in 10 games; he'll be opposed by Jeff Zatkoff, making his second NHL start.

Here are the expected lineups for both teams:


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis

Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - Chuck Kobasew

Tanner Glass - Brandon Sutter - Jayson Megna

Craig Adams - Joe Vitale - Deryk Engelland

Rob Scuderi - Kris Letang

Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin

Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Jeff Zatkoff

Marc-Andre Fleury

Scratched: Dustin Jeffrey, Robert Bortuzzo

Injured: Matt D'Agostini (lower body), James Neal (upper body), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis), Beau Bennett (lower body)


Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Frans Nielsen - Josh Bailey

Brock Nelson - Peter Regin - Cal Clutterbuck

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Colin McDonald

Travis Hamonic - Andrew MacDonald

Matt Donovan - Radek Martinek

Thomas Hickey - Matt Carkner

Evgeni Nabokov

Kevin Poulin

Scratched: Eric Boulton

Suspended: Michael Grabner

Injured: Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion), Brian Strait (upper body)

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