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Penguins Report: Whitney In, Letang Out

Tuesday, 12.23.2008 / 11:47 AM / Penguins Report
By Sam Kasan
Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney will make his NHL return on Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Mellon Arena at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s good to be back,” he said. “It’s exciting. It’ll be nice to be finally getting into games and not watching anymore. That was getting old.”

“He’s going to make his debut with us,” head coach Michel Therrien said. “We’re excited to have him back in our lineup. I’m sure he’s excited too as well. He’s an important player. He’s a player that moves the puck really well. He does a good job in the transition game. He’s got good vision with the puck.”

The Penguins held an optional morning skate so pairings couldn’t be determined but Therrien confirmed that Whitney will skate in place of Kris Letang.

Letang, who suffered an undisclosed injury in Pittsburgh’s 4-3 overtime victory at Buffalo on Monday, will miss his first game this season and is listed as day-to-day.

Whitney, who has fully recovered from offseason foot surgery, hasn’t played an NHL game since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. He did play Saturday for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a conditioning assignment - his first hockey game in six months.

“You can’t expect Ryan Whitney to be the guy that he was at the end of the season last year,” Therrien said. “He’s going to have to be patient. He didn’t have any training camp. He played one game in Wilkes-Barre. It’s going to be a process.”

In his lone game with the Baby Penguins Whitney recorded an assist on a power play. Therrien said that Whitney will see action on Pittsburgh’s power play against the Lightning, but wouldn’t give any furthur details.

We’ll see how he feels and we'll go from there. We want to manage his energy and his confidence as well. - Michel Therrien
“We’ll see how it goes,” Therrien said. “We’ll see how he feels and we'll go from there. We want to manage his energy and his confidence as well.”

“It’s a little nerve racking,” Whitney said of his return. “You want to play well and keep it simple your first game. At the same time there will be a lot of adrenaline. It won’t be too tough to get up for this one.”


> Only seven Penguins participated in the team’s optional morning skate on Tuesday, but the most notable was defenseman Hal Gill.

The 6-foot-7, 250-pound blueliner practiced for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury at Ottawa on Dec. 6 during the third period.

“I feel like I’m getting there,” Gill said. “It’s going to be sore for a month they tell me. It’s a process with the trainers to find out when I can take a hit. That’s what I’m waiting on.”

The original prognosis was that Gill will miss two to four weeks. It’s been over two weeks since he was injured but Gill and the trainers will be cautious with his return.

     
 

 
     
“It’s one of those things where you need to find a level where you can compete at that will help the team,” he said. “I don’t want to go out there and hurt the team. I want to go out and be strong and be able to do what I can do.”

The other six Penguins at the morning skate were forwards Tim Wallace and Jeff Taffe, defensemen Rob Scuderi, Alex Goligoski and Ryan Whitney and goaltender Dany Sabourin.

Marc-Andre Fleury will make his fourth consecutive start in goal for Pittsburgh and his first back-to-back starts since Oct. 4-5 against Ottawa in Stockholm, Sweden.


> Alex Goligoski was the hero in Pittsburgh 4-3 overtime victory at Buffalo on Monday. The rookie defenseman scored two goals, including the game-tying third-period goal, and setup the overtime winner.

He set new career highs with two goals and three points in one game. He’s posted seven points (2G-5A) in his last five games and leads all rookie defensemen with 18 points on six goals and 12 assists this season.

“I’m just lucky I guess,” Goligoski humbly said. “It was a good. It’s good for the team too, a big road win against a good team. It was definitely something we needed.”

Both of his goals against the Sabres came on shots from the point, a point of emphasis for the 23 year old.

“We wanted to concentrate on getting more shots from the point and getting them on net,” he said. “You just throw it at the net and they find their way in. Defenses collapse when the puck comes up to the point. It’s tough to get it through. When they do get through a lot of times our forwards will have position on their (defense) because they’re trying to block those shots.”

Goligoski’s offensive talent is obvious. But he’s also improved steadily in his own zone at the NHL level.

“It’s tougher to be consistent up here,” he said. “There’s a hard matchup every night playing the best players in the world. You have to really focus on being consistent night in and night out.”


> He said it: Therrien on facing so many former Penguins playing for Tampa Bay:

“You’d like to keep your players, especially players that seem happy with us and grew with us. But there’s a business side that’s tough to control.”



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