PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins
star defenseman Kris Letang
will miss at least two more games with a lower-body injury that occurred when he was tripped by Devils forward Ryan Carter
during Sunday's game.
Letang was held out of the Penguins' 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders
on Tuesday and did not practice with the team Wednesday. He also did not accompany the Penguins on a two-game road trip that sends them to Long Island for a rematch with the Islanders on Thursday and to Buffalo on Friday.
The earliest Letang could play would be Sunday against the Philadelphia Flyers
(12:30 p.m., NBC).
was not on the ice," coach Dan Bylsma
said following practice. "(He) is still day-to-day with a lower-body injury."
Letang absorbed a pair of hard hits during Sunday's game. He was checked by a doctor and was cleared to return after he and Dainius Zubrus
collided head-to-head during the second period, but after he returned, he fell feet-first into the endboards after being tripped by Carter 5:30 into the third period.
The Penguins are overly cautious about any possible head injury to Letang because he was out from Nov. 26 until Jan. 19 with the first concussion of his career -- one that interrupted what until then was the best offensive season of his career.
Letang began producing again after he returned -- he had 6 goals and 6 assists in 18 games -- only to be sidelined again for five games following a collision with Stars forward Eric Nystrom
on Feb. 29. Letang experienced headaches after that hit, but was not diagnosed with a concussion.
Letang, a point man on the power play and one of the NHL's top puck-moving defensemen, has 9 goals, 27 assists and a plus-16 rating in 47 games this season.
With Letang, Matt Niskanen
and Ben Lovejoy
(knee) out against the Islanders, AHL call-ups Simon Despres
and Brian Strait
took regular shifts in Tuesday's game. Strait also earned his first NHL point by assisting on Tyler Kennedy
's goal early in the second period.
and Simon have proven that they can come in, play the right way for us and defend and limit other teams' opportunities in the time they've played," Bylsma said.
Penguins forward Joe Vitale
, out for five games with an upper-body injury, is on the road trip, although Bylsma did not say if he would play in either game. Niskanen, who has missed three games with an upper-body injury, stayed back in Pittsburgh.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
said he is fine despite being rammed hard by teammate Paul Martin
on Frans Nielsen
's second goal of the game late in the second period Tuesday. Fleury sat out the third period.
"We're lucky we play with good helmets, compared to back in the day," Fleury said. "It's good. There's no injury, so there are no lingering effects. Just a tough game."
By losing to the Islanders -- a team they had beaten four straight times this season -- the Penguins fell three points behind the Rangers in the race for first place in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division. The Penguins have six games remaining.
"There have certainly been words spoken about where we're at and the situation we're in and how we're playing right now and our mindset in terms of where we're at in relation to the end of the season," Bylsma said.