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3 Things: Letang "excited" and "honored"

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Here are three noteworthy takeaways from Sunday's morning sakte…

1. Letang excited to return

Pens defenseman Kris Letang will see his first game action in seven months tonight when the Pens host the St. Louis Blues at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township in the Kraft Hockeyville USA game.

"I'm pretty excited and a little nervous," Letang said. "It's been a while since I played in a real game. I'm looking forward to it. It's a part of the process. Hopefully I can gain some confidence and take the next step."

Letang, 30, hasn't played a game since Feb. 21 at Carolina. He's been sidelined the past few months due to a herniated disc in his neck, which required surgery in early April.

Even though it's a preseason game, it's still an opportunity for Letang to experience live action.

"I'm just going shift by shift and see how it goes," Letang said. "I have to work on the things I do well and try to get better every day."

Although it is a preseason game, due to the contest being the Kraft Hockeyville USA game, both clubs are dressing some significant players. The Pens will have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Jake Guentzel, Letang and Matt Murray, while St. Louis is suiting up Paul Stastny, Vladimir Tarasenko, Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo.

So this is as close to a regular-season game as you can get in the preseason.

"It's fun to have those tests right away," Letang said. "They're bringing a good lineup. I'll be facing good players that can play 1-on-1. It's going to be fun."

Letang's teammates and coaches are glad to see him once again on the ice.

"We're excited to get him in the lineup. I know he's excited to play," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "We'll try to put him in positions where he can get his timing back. It's hard to simulate game-situations, game-intensity in a practice environment. This is a good opportunity for 'Tanger' to get back involved."

2. Letang honored with "A"

Sullivan announced on Saturday that Letang will be wearing an "A" as one of the team's alternate captains for this season.

"It's a great honor to receive that from the organization and my teammates," Letang said. "I've been here for 12 years, I'm pretty happy to finally have (an A) and I'll wear it as a big honor."

3. Frenemies

Pens forward Ryan Reaves will be facing off against his former Blues teammates for the first time tonight since being traded to Pittsburgh on June 23 at the NHL Draft.

"I'm sure it'll be a little weird with it being so fresh," Reaves said. "It'll be fun at the same time."

Reaves has stayed in touch with many of his former Blues teammates. And he gave them a warning prior to the game.

"I told them I will knock down every guy at least one time," he laughed. "So we'll see if I can get that done."

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