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The Inside Scoop: Game Day (Pens vs. Avs)

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Good afternoon (or early evening back East) hockey fans. Tonight the Pens conclude their season-long 12-day road trip in Colorado for a contest with the Avalanche at Pepsi Center.


The Pens’ lineup will have a different look when they take on the Avs. For starters, in the absence of winger Pascal Dupuis (full coverage here) the team will insert rookie Daniel Sprong, who hasn’t played since Nov. 17, into the lineup.

“I feel pretty good,” Sprong said following the team’s morning skate. “I got to watch the last few games from (the press box). I learned a lot of new things and I’m just excited to get back in the lineup.”

Defensively, Kris Letang looks poised to return to game action after sitting out the team’s past two contests over the weekend in Los Angeles and Anaheim.

“I feel pretty good,” said Letang, who suffered an undisclosed injury in the Pens’ game against San Jose Dec. 1. “I had a good practice (Tuesday) and now the morning skate.

“I told the trainers I was ready to go.”

Though Letang feels ready to return, the decision is still up to the coaches and training staff.

“He looked like he was fine,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “I asked him on the ice and he said he was fine. The trainers will let me know, usually within a half hour after he gets off.”

ODD MEN OUT
If Letang does return against the Avalanche, that gives the Pens eight healthy defensemen, meaning two will likely sit out. Although the team didn’t do rushes at the morning skate, they did in Tuesday’s practice. The defensive pairs were…

Maatta-Letang
Dumoulin-Lovejoy
Warsofsky-Cole
Scuderi-Clendening

In deciding which two D-men to sit tonight, Johnston said they were looking at them as pairs.

“We’re looking at the lineup, we’re looking at how they play,” Johnston said. “What D pairs give us the best chance to win? That’s what we’re looking at.”

FWIW, Scuderi and Clendening stayed on the ice well after the rest of the team. It looks like they may be the odd men out.

THIS ‘N AT
*Johnston on how to jumpstart Patric Hornqvist, who is goal less in his past 10 games: “Players on his line have to get the puck to the net for him. He’s a great net-guy, one of the best in the league in that 10-foot area.”

*Sidney Crosby on how the Pens can reach their potential: “Our compete level dictates everything, when we’re working hard and winning our battles in every area of the ice.”
 
*Crosby on the Avs: “Their speed is a factor. Their D join the play. They have a good transition game. We can’t turn the puck over and slow them down as best that we can.”

*With Dupuis out, the Pens will use different players on the penalty kill, including Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and Sergei Plotnikov.

*Letang on Dupuis: “I spent a lot of time with Duper, especially on the road as my first roommate. He’s the guy that taught me the most about how to be a pro and be an NHL player.”

*Former Pen Max Talbot on Dupuis: “He loves hockey so much and he tried to play through it. But at some point I feel like he started thinking about his family and his health. He’s a big part of that team. He was the best teammate I ever had.”

*Marc-Andre Fleury was the first goalie off the ice.

GAME INFO
Where: Pepsi Center
When: Wednesday, 10 p.m.
TV: ROOTS Sports
Radio: 105.9 WXDX, the Penguins radio network
Social: @penguins, @PensInsideScoop


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