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Letang Ready for Bigger Role on Team

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Every NHL team undergoes changes during the offseason that alter the makeup of the roster. The 2009 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins are no different.

While the team re-signed forwards Craig Adams, Bill Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko, they did lose two quality defensive defensemen in Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill through unrestricted free agency.

“They did a great job. They were our shutdown defensemen during the whole playoffs,” blueliner Kris Letang said. “It’s tough but that’s life. That’s the way the NHL is right now. We’re going to build with some other guys and have a good team again.”

In Scuderi and Gill’s absence, the Penguins are anticipating their younger defensemen, including Letang, to grow and handle a much bigger role on the team.

“I think it will be expecting more from Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang,” general manager Ray Shero said. “Those are two younger guys that we have a lot of faith in. They're going to move up and get more ice time. But we have a little bit more expectations for the younger players, which is normal, to improve and get better.”

Letang, a 22-year-old Montreal native, will be entering only his third full NHL season next campaign. Letang posted 17 points as a 20-year-old rookie in 2007-08. Last season, he set career marks with 33 points and 10 goals. He also chipped in 13 postseason points, including a few clutch goals, to help the Penguins win their third Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Next season, Letang will see his role expand as he moves up the depth chart. However, don’t expect Letang, who is blessed with offensive abilities, to alter his game in anyway.

“You don’t want to change,” Letang said. “I’m going to keep playing the way I play, my style. I’m going to keep growing as a player. I’m just thinking about getting back to training camp in shape and ready to go for a new season.”

Getting back to training camp won’t take very long considering the team will have a short offseason for the second straight year due to consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances. Not that Letang is complaining about that, of course.

“It’s a good sign,” he said. “I don’t mind having a short summer. This is two years in a row. I feel great after both summers. I’ll get back at it quickly and that’s what we want.”

With the eventful offseason, Letang admits that he hasn’t had much time to reflect the Penguins’ Stanley Cup championship. But soon he will have his day with the Cup with close friends and family. Maybe then the team’s accomplishments will hit him.

“My friends and family always talk about it so I’ll remember certain details,” Letang said. “We’ll talk about plays that happened. I get excited when I talk about it but it hasn’t sunk in yet.”

For now, Letang is going to take some time off to rest and relax. Then he’ll be back in Pittsburgh to start training camp to defend the Penguins’ championship title.

“(I haven’t had) too much rest so far,” he said. “I’m going to take a trip for five days to relax by myself. It’s a little trip by myself. I need it and I think all the guys should have a little time alone to free your mind. Then I want to come into training camp ready to go.”

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