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Day-to-day designation for injured Kris Letang lets Penguins breathe sigh of relief |

Day-to-day designation for injured Kris Letang lets Penguins breathe sigh of relief

| Saturday, December 15, 2018 5:36 p.m
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang out on the ice after morning skate before 6 of the Stanley Cup Final Sunday, June 11 , 2017 at Bridgestone Arena.

When Kris Letang hobbled back to the locker room late in Friday night’s game, the Pittsburgh Penguins might have seen their season flash in front of their eyes.

As it turns out, they won’t be without their most important defenseman for all that long, relatively speaking.

Letang won’t play when the Penguins play host to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, but his status is considered day to day, coach Mike Sullivan said.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Sullivan said. “We’ll take each day as it comes. We believe we have capable people we can put in the lineup. We have enough to win. It’s going to provide opportunities for other guys to step up and play more significant roles. Guys gotta take advantage of those opportunities.”

Letang was injured when his left leg bent awkwardly as he skated into hunched-over Bruins forward Joakim Nordstrom late in the third period Friday night.

Letang is having an excellent season for the Penguins, again proving indispensible because of the ice time he eats up in all situations.

He leads the team and is third in the league in average ice time per game at 25 minutes, 55 seconds. He averages more than three minutes on the power play and two minutes on the penalty kill each game.

He’s eighth in the league in defenseman scoring with seven goals and 25 points in 30 games.

With Letang out, Juuso Riikola or Chad Ruhwedel is expected to join the Penguins lineup.

Riikola, a surprise training camp standout, has one assist and a minus-1 rating in 14 games this season. He last played on Dec. 1. If Riikola plays, all six Penguins defensemen will be left-handed.

Ruhwedel has no points and a minus-8 rating in 11 games. He hasn’t played since Nov. 19.

As expected, Matt Murray will start in goal against the Kings, Sullivan said.

Murray has been out since Nov. 17 with a lower-body injury. He’s looking to get his season on track after getting off to a 4-5-1 start with an .877 save percentage before the injury.

Jonathan Quick is expected to start in goal for the Kings.

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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