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3 Things: Sheahan and Letang strike, injury updates and more

by Pens writing staff @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

Here are the 3 biggest takeaways from Friday's practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex…

1. Life O'Riley

For Pens center Riley Sheahan, the points have started to come. After recording just 1 assist in his first 18 games with Pittsburgh, Sheahan has posted 7 points in his last 11 games.

The one thing that eluded him was a goal. Well, a goal against a goalie that is. Sheahan scored his first goal as a Penguin when he netted an empty-net goal at Ottawa on Nov. 16.

But that changed at the 8:01 mark of the third period against the New York Islanders on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena when Sheahan roofed a shot into the corner over the shoulder of netminder Jaroslav Halak.

"Empty-netters are nice, but it's not the way you picture your first one," Sheahan said. "To get that one felt pretty good."

It was just the second goal of the year for Sheahan, which has baffled the coaching staff.

"He sees the ice pretty well. He can make plays and he can really shoot it," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "It's been a head scratcher for us why it's not going in the net for him. Hopefully with his scoring and picking up a couple of assists as of late that it will build his confidence and he can go from there."

Halak came out of his net to play a puck, but the pressure from Carl Hagelin's forecheck forced a turnover. Hagelin gave the puck to Sheahan as Halak scrambled to recover and get back to his net.

"When you have guys like 'Hagy' that can skate and create pressure like that it puts the other team under stress," Sheahan said. "I had a hunch and tried to read it. I knew he was on his forehand and it's tough to play it on his backhand. I knew he was going to go up the wall with it. Luckily he did."

After that Sheahan patiently waited until Halak had dropped down to lift the puck into the opposite corner.

"I really wasn't sure what he was going to do," Sheahan said. "I tried to hold him out a bit. I don't think he knew exactly where his net was so he gave me a little bit of space."

Though Riley's offense has come around lately, his defensive play has been a huge asset to the Pens all season long.

"He has good awareness in his own end zone. He's a pretty good defensive player. He can play at both ends of the rink," Sullivan said. "We've really liked Riley's game. His two-way game is pretty strong. He's a good faceoff guy."

And now that his offensive game is starting to come around, so to should his mojo.

"It felt good," he said. "You feel like you're getting chances and contributing a bit. To be able to score and be on the scoresheet like that can build your confidence."

2. Letangerang

The NHL announced Friday that there had been a scoring change on the Penguins' opening goal in their 4-3 overtime win against the New York Islanders.

 Jake Guentzel was originally credited with the tally as Kris Letang's shot appeared to deflect off of his stick. But the winger knew right away that the defenseman's shot had entered the net clean.

 "'Guentz' told me on the ice, he said he didn't touch it," Letang said with a smile. "So kind of honest of him to say that. It's always fun to be on the scoring sheet."

That was Letang's second goal of the year to go along with an assist, both coming on the power play. From his position on the center point - a responsibility he's taken on fully with Justin Schultz out weeks with a lower-body injury - Letang wasn't hesitant to put the puck on net, and that shot-first mentality paid off against New York.

"The way they were killing, it's a little bit different," Letang said. "They were opening up the middle of the ice, kind of taking away the flankers, 'Geno' (Evgeni Malkin) and Phil (Kessel). So it gave me a lane to shoot the puck."

Letang did have an opening to feed Kessel for his helper, which was his 21st of the season, tops among NHL defensemen. But while Letang's offense has been steady, Letang knows that other parts of his game still need work.

"It's not perfect, but it's getting better," he said. "Game after game, I take little things and I look at different things to improve, so hopefully as the season goes on, I'll get better and better."

3. Skate info

* Forward Tom Kuhnhackl (upper-body), defenseman Justin Schultz (lower-body) and goaltender Matt Murray (lower-body) were absent from practice.

* There was no update available for Kuhnhackl, who was being evaluated by team doctors.

* Center Greg McKegg cleared waivers and will report to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.

* The Pens used the following workflow…









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