Defenseman Kris Letang was placed in NHL protocol for covid-19 on Saturday and will not be available to play. Coach Mike Sullivan announced Letang’s status after optional morning practice.
According to Sullivan, Letang tested positive for the virus but his test was not verified.
“He’s going through confirmatory testing,” Sullivan said. “It’s part of the protocol. Until we get them back, we can’t say for sure where it is.
Starting goaltender Tristan Jarry missed practice on Thursday after testing positive, but was back on the ice on Friday after learning his positive test was false.
The Penguins are believed to be part of a handful of teams that test players and staff on a daily basis. NHL protocols require teams to test vaccinated players every 72 hours.
Letang’s absence is the final hurdle for a team that many of their most important players are already missing. Forwards Sidney Crosby (left wrist) and Evgeni Malkin (right knee) continue to rehabilitate after off-season surgeries. Additionally, forward Bryan Rust (injury not disclosed) and Jeff Carter (covid-19 test positive) recently left the roster.
“Our players are very familiar with our style of play with the details of how we try to play each respective area and both sides of the puck,” said Sullivan. “Whether or not they play a bigger role by playing more minutes, things of that nature, I’m not sure that changes those details. But that said, when we have some of the types of players that we have in our roster, I don’t think we need to change the way we play. I just think we need to simplify the way we play.
Six-time All-Star, Letang is one of the Penguins’ least replaceable players. In four games this season, he has collected four assists and leads the team with an average of 26 minutes and 8 seconds of ice time per game.
In a cruel twist, Letang was the team’s “iron man”, having played the team’s best 56 consecutive games, including the playoffs. He had recently inherited the designation after Rust was injured on Oct. 14 and saw his streak cut to 104 games.
In Letang’s absence on Saturday, defenseman Marcus Pettersson, who has played 53 straight games, is set to become the Penguins’ new “iron man”.
• Sullivan has confirmed that defenseman Mark Friedman, who was hampered by an undisclosed injury earlier this week, is available for Saturday’s game.
• Sullivan suggested the team will likely do at least one American Hockey League (AHL) Wilkes-Barre / Scranton recall on Saturday as a precaution.
• Jarry is expected to start Saturday’s game. In three games this season, Jarry is 2-0-1, 1.62 goals against average and .935 save percentage.
• The Penguins’ optional morning practice included forwards Teddy Blueger, Brian Boyle, Kasperi Kapanen, Sam Lafferty, Drew O’Connor, Evan Rodrigues and Dominik Simon; defenders Chad Ruhwedel, Friedman and Pettersson; and goalies Casey DeSmith and Jarry.
Follow the Penguins throughout the season.
Seth Rorabaugh is an editor for Tribune-Review. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] ou via Twitter .