Post-playoff meeting with coaches set tone for Letang


Second item on “The Lead” scroll for ESPN: Penguins look to extend 12-game winning streak. Of course, the first item was Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies, a shocker that stole the buzz in this city of so-called brotherly love from what could prove the best NHL game of the season to date.

= So, C EVGENI MALKIN and LW CHRIS KUNITZ each might play tonight, even though coach DAN BYLSMA was non-committal to either player dressing. Malkin declined comment after a morning practice, and I’m taking that as a sign he’s in. He doesn’t speak the morning before he plays, and he didn’t speak today. Draw your own conclusions — but before doing so consider that he looked sharp at practice for a second straight day. Malkin has missed the last four games with a sore left knee.

= Word is people are going to be blown away by Episode I of the “24/7 Penguins-Capitals Road to the Winter Classic.” The show debuts Wednesday night at 10 p.m. on HBO, and I’ve been told that those among us (cough, cough) who have long presumed these Penguins to be a bit underwhelming regarding lively personalities will be surprised with what we see. Producers in New York are receiving about 25 cartons of footage per day and they’re working around the clock (basically) to sort out what will and won’t appear on the shows. I’m cautiously curious to discover all the things I’ve missed over the last week because those cameras are catching the Penguins in a natural state as opposed to the front presented to the media. (A prediction: Nobody will feel worse after watching these shows than the local beat reporter who fights off fits of jealousy over the access that HBO cameras were granted.)

= C SIDNEY CROSBY will be on “The Price Is Right” on Monday. He will join Capitals LW ALEX OVECHKIN and former NHL star Jeremy Roenick for the “Showcase Showdown” on the popular daytime game show. Crosby and Ovechkin — clearly making good on a long-standing friendship (sarcasm noted) — will unveil a showcase package that includes Winter Classic tickets. Roenick will introduce a package that includes a trip to the 2001 Stanley Cup Final. Nobody will introduce Bob Barker because the show is now hosted by Drew Carey. A pity.

= Crosby is one of four Penguins among the overall top 10 in voting for the 2011 All-Star Game. He leads all vote-getters with 401, 754. His popularity isn’t a surprise, but the second overall standing of D KRIS LETANG has caught the attention of everybody associated with the online voting. Letang received more than 80,000 votes last week to keep the No. 2 position and the overall lead among defensemen at 293,584. All of those votes are write-in votes because Letang wasn’t on the original online ballot.

Translation: Penguins fans clearly control the world wide web.

MARC-ANDRE FLEURY is second among goalies with 218,350 votes, though he believes Montreal’s CAREY PRICE will hold him off because Canadiens fans will get out the vote for their club’s starter. (Sounds like a challenge to Fleury’s fans in Pittsburgh… oh, wait.)

Malkin is at 211,699 votes.

= Letang was mentioned Monday night on the NHL Network’s “On the Fly” as a possible Norris Trophy candidate. The season is too young for such talk, but he’s off to a nice start – one that, apparently, his coaches expected.

“Every year after the playoffs we sit down– me, Dan, and the other coaches – and they (instructed) for me to bring that type of game: the physical play; playing hard in my zone; not being afraid to shoot… they wanted me to play like that, and I came with that mentality this year,” he said. “They showed me clips from the playoffs, and said, ‘That’s how you play when you’re on it, and it’s really important (this season) because it’s on the line.”

= Also on the line: A win tonight would extend the streak to 13 games. That would make it the second longest winnings streak since 2001.