Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

New Game Is Beat the Clock

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

New Game Is Beat the Clock

Article excerpt

One word, one glorious word, completely dissolved all the bad things that happened at PPG Paints Arena Wednesday night.

"Yes."

That was Mike Sullivan's response when I asked him after the Penguins' 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks if he was confident injured defenseman Kris Letang would be playing by the start of the playoffs.

"Yes," he said, without elaborating.

So, honestly, who really cares that the quasi-Penguins ? largely the JV team ? got crushed by the healthy and high-flying Chicago Blackhawks.

"Yes" gives them hope.

It doesn't solve all their injury issues, by any means, but it does give them hope.

Let me remind you of something: In Game 6 last June in San Jose, the night the Penguins won the Cup, Letang played just under 30 minutes and scored the winning goal on a ridiculously spectacular play. When that guy's right, you barely need six defensemen. He plays half the game.

"Yes" doesn't necessarily mean Letang will be himself at playoff time, which is just two weeks away, but it sure beats "No" and it's a lot better than "Not sure," too.

This was going to be a column about the goaltenders. Seemed like a big night for Marc-Andre Fleury as he continued, against long odds, to try to build a case for unseating Matt Murray before the playoffs.

But let's not fool ourselves. Goaltending isn't the issue here. Fleury and Murray could have played simultaneously Wednesday, and the Penguins weren't going to beat the Blackhawks.

The game for the Penguins now is Beat The Clock.

Can the key injured players return in time and perform a reasonable imitation of their best selves?

Can the Penguins, possibly incorporating a large influx of newly available bodies, regain cohesiveness in time to face a formidable first-round opponent such as the Columbus Blue Jackets?

Those are the questions. Forget about the goalies. The Penguins can win with either guy, but they cannot win if Carter Rowney and Scott Wilson are skating on the second line. …

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