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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

While Sidney Crosby won’t play in the 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship tournament, the Pittsburgh Penguins will have a presence on Team Canada, nonetheless.

Kristopher Letang made Team Canada’s roster for the upcoming tournament, which begins in three British Columbia sites: Vancouver, Kelowna and Kamloops on Dec. 26. Like Crosby, the Penguins drafted Letang this year. The blue-liner was taken in the third round, 62nd overall. Crosby, who is on Team Canada’s preliminary list for the 2006 Winter Olympics, was the first-overall pick.   

Letang, 18, is one of seven defensemen on the roster for Team Canada, the defending champ. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder has 12 goals, nine assists and 21 points in 31 games this season for Val d’Or of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. His 77 penalty minutes rank second on the team as well.

In addition, the Penguins have a big presence on the Russian team in Evgeni Malkin. The 19-year-old center’s participation in the tournament was in doubt, but he was recently confirmed as part of the team and named captain. Malkin, the 2004 second-overall pick, plays for Magnitogorsk in the Russian Super League. He leads his team with 15 goals, 20 assists and 35 points in 32 games. The 6-3, 186-pounder sits atop the Russian Super League in goals and points and is second in assists.

The Penguins could be represented on Team Sweden, too. Johannes Salmonsson, a forward, was on the squad’s tryout roster. The Penguins drafted the 6-2, 183-pounder in the second round, 31st overall, in 2004.

Penguins prospect Tommi Leinonen is on Finland's roster. The 6-2, 194-pounder is one of seven defensemen for the Finns. Like Crosby and Letang, Leinonen was drafted this year. The Penguins took him in the fourth round (125th overall).

The round-robin tournament opens on Dec. 26. Canada faces Finland in Group A play, while Norway and the United States battle. In Group B action, Russian and Sweden meet, while Latvia and the Czech Republic tangle.

Switzerland (Group A) and Slovakia (Group B) open tournament play on Dec. 27 against Norway and Latvia, respectively.

The tournament concludes on Jan. 5 with the bronze and gold medal games.


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