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Pens AMlog: Updates on Niskanen, Letang, Morrow and Bennett.


A Sunday morning update for the dear readers:

= The Penguins will play host to the New Jersey Devils at 7:30 p.m. at Consol Energy Center. Starting goalies are Thomas Vokoun (Penguins) and Johan Hedberg (Devils).

= D Matt Niskanen practiced with teammates during an option session. He will not play tonight, but his return is another sign of progress. Niskanen will miss an eighth consecutive game because of an ankle injury.

= D Kris Letang will miss a third straight game because of an undisclosed lower-body injury. He is on the Injured Reserve list retroactive to Feb. 5. Letang cannot play until Wednesday at the earliest. The Penguins play host to Ottawa on Wednesday night.

= D Joe Morrow, arguably the top overall Penguins prospect, was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL, but coach Dan Bylsma said Morrow is joining the Penguins for “insurance.” Morrow was the 23rd overall pick at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and he is considered the Penguins’ best defensive prospect – No. 2 overall in their system behind LW Beau Bennett.

Morrow’s statistics from his first professional season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: 2 goals, 10 points, a minus-4 rating in 39 games.

= Bennett is back skating with the AHL Penguins after missing about two weeks with an undisclosed lower-body injury. He scored the winning goal Saturday night in a win at Norfolk.

The Penguins’ NHL brass is paying close attention to Bennett, the 20th overall pick in 2010. He lost about 10 pounds earlier in the AHL season because of the flu. If he can gain back that weight, and continues to produce – 7 goals, 25 points in 34 games – he likely will get a chance to play with C Evgeni Malkin and RW James Neal before the April 3 NHL trade deadline.

The thinking by Penguins management is to give Bennett a look before the deadline to see if he might be the fit for a second-line left wing slot that has proven problematic all season.

= Both the Penguins and Devils held optional morning practices Sunday. Notable absences for the Penguins: Cs Sidney Crosby and Malkin; RWs Neal and Pascal Dupuis; LWs Chris Kunitz and Matt Cooke; D Paul Martin.

Bylsma said after the practice that the Penguins are dealing with some injuries to their defense corps, but he did not identify any players other than Niskanen and Letang.

= The Penguins will wear their alternate blue uniforms against the Devils. The uniforms debuted at the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field.







Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

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