Mark Letestu came to Penguins training camp last month hoping to earn a spot on the National Hockey League roster. Not only did he accomplish that, he has since established himself as one of the better players on the team in the early part of the season.
Through seven games, he has seven points, and his four goals are tied with Sidney Crosby
for the team lead.
He proved his offensive prowess again Monday night with his two-point (1G-1A) performance in a 5-2 win against Ottawa at CONSOL Energy Center.
“It’s a good run for me,” Letestu said. “Things are going well. I hope it continues on.”
“He’s been solid since the start,” Sidney Crosby
said. “He’s really made an impact for us here.”
“He’s getting rewarded on the score sheet,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “On top of (his offensive skills), he’s responsible in other areas of the game that allow him to be a reliable guy.
“He’s done a great job, and he’s done it repeatedly for us.”
At 8:39 of the first period with the Penguins on a power play, Letestu caught a pass from Mike Comrie and ripped a wrister from the high slot past the glove of Senators goaltender Brian Elliott to put the Penguins on the board first.
“It was kind of an unfamiliar spot for me coming in off the point, but Mike’s got pretty good vision there to find me,” Letestu said. “I just shot it as hard as I could, and it went in.”
Letestu added a helper later in the period after he won a faceoff and battled for the puck in the low slot. His gritty play in front of the net led to a diving goal by Evgeni Malkin
to put the Penguins up 3-0.
“It was a set play, a push through on the faceoff,” Letestu said. “(Jason) Spezza’s a righty, so we let him win it. I just chased it and got caught up there. Geno worked his tail off to get from the wall to the front of the net to put that one in.”
Letestu almost got a second goal near the end of the first when his shot from the left circle rang off the post behind Elliott.
“He is a great guy,” Malkin said. “He is scoring every game for us right now.”
Letestu spent most of the past three seasons with the Penguins’ top minor-league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, where he racked up 134 points (51G-83A) during his time in the American Hockey League. RELATED ARTICLE: Aftermath: Penguins 5, Senators 2
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He impressed the Penguins coaches by scoring six points (1G-5A) through five preseason games. That earned him a spot centering the Penguins’ third line between wingers Matt Cooke
and Tyler Kennedy
to start the season.
He spent time playing with Malkin and Comrie during Monday’s game. But no matter which line he centers, his offensive numbers remains consistent.
“I try not to play differently,” Letestu said. “I think the reason I get to play with those guys is because of the way I have been playing.”
That mindset gives the Penguins a nice outlook for the future.
“I’m just going to keep playing the same game, chipping pucks in and going to dirty areas to get some points out there,” he said.