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3 Things: Letang returns with an "A"

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Here are three noteworthy takeaways from Saturday's practice…

1. Letang returns

Pens defenseman Kris Letang hasn't played an NHL game since Feb. 21 at Carolina. Seven months later, he'll be back on the ice.

Letang, 30, will suit up for Pittsburgh's Kraft Hockeyville contest against St. Louis on Sunday night at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township.

Letang entered training camp "healthier than he's ever been," according to general manager Jim Rutherford following a summer-long rehab program for surgery on a herniated disc in his neck that ended his 2016-17 season prematurely.

Letang was cleared prior to training camp and has thus far taken part in all aspects of contact, battles and drills. But the one thing he had yet to do is play in a preseason game.

That is, until now.

"I'm pretty excited. I can't wait to see how it goes," Letang said. "Mostly just getting back out there, playing with my teammates. It's going to be fun."

The Pens' blueliner practiced on Saturday with the Pens' No. 1 power-play unit and he hopes to return to his usual workload during the regular season.

"I want to be the same player I was before. I don't see any reason why I wouldn't be able to do that," he said. "Hopefully everything goes well and I go back to the old way, playing over 25 minutes and in all situations."

2. Letang given an "A"

When Letang puts on his gear against St. Louis on Sunday night, there will be a newly stitched addition on his shoulder.

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

"In my experience with Kris in the last two years he's already grown into that role," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "He takes so much ownership for his own game and helping the team win. He cares so much about this organization and his teammates, and he's very deserving of the letter on his sweater."

3. Crosby weighs in on rule changes

There are two big rule changes that the NHL is actively enforcing this season, and it's been a "point of emphasis" during the preseason.

Those points are slashing penalties and face-off violations, both of which have caused a significant uptick in penalties called during the preseason.

Pens captain Sidney Crosby is a fan of the new face-off rule, forcing players to use only their stick to win a "clean draw."

"I like it," he said. "There are a lot of guys that use their feet that won't like it. When you use your foot a lot, you're going to cheat your foot forward. Guys that use their foot more aren't going to like it. I don't tend to use my foot a lot, so that's why I like it."

"As players you're going to find a way to adjust. If you don't learn quick then you're not going to be taking many face-offs."

Crosby, 30, also touched on the extra attention to slashing players at and above the hands.

"There's a difference between trying to play a guy and deliberately going at his hands," Crosby said. "They're really trying to crack down on guys going after each other's hands out there. I think that's good to crack down on that."

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