USATSI_8482125_154158418_lowresThe Pittsburgh Penguins may have defeated the Arizona Coyotes by a final of 3-2 on Saturday night, but they also lost defenceman Kris Letang to injury.

The incident occurred after Letang sent a pass through the neutral zone and was shoved by Coyotes forward Shane Doan. The blueliner subsequently fell toward the end boards and landed, shall we say, awkwardly. He remained seated on the ice for a number of minutes as he was treated by trainers. He was subsequently taken to the hospital.

“When it happened, I could tell that when he went into the boards, it was awkward,” Doan said. “He’s so good. We talk about it. You can’t let him jump by you and I just went to make sure I got a piece of him so he couldn’t jump by me and obviously, he went into the boards awkward. We have to finish our checks on him.”

There was no penalty called on the play, but Doan did later fight Steve Downie later in the contest. Still, it was hard for the combatants to have bad words about each other.

“He’s a hard player. He’s going to finish his hits,” Downie said. “It was unfortunate the way [Letang] fell, but I have nothing but respect for Doan. He did the right thing. That’s hockey right there.”

Obviously Doan had his reasons for “finishing the check,” but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was looked at by the league. For one, it was late contact. For another, it was avoidable. There was no need for the hit or the force it came with. It could’ve had dire consequences for Letang.

The issue now is that this could put the Penguins in a more compromising position. To say their blueline is thin is to point out the obvious.

“We feel that we have some young, talented defencemen who will come and fill a spot and hopefully as a group of six, we can collectively try to make up for some of the things that Kris Letang does,” defenceman Ben Lovejoy said.

The issue here is that what Letang does can’t so easily be replaced. In 69 games, he has 11 goals and 43 assists. His 54 points is evidence of his ability to propel the attack for the Penguins. He has two power play goals and 197 shots on goal. That’s not something you can just replace overnight, but the Penguins do have some possibilities.

But there’s no question that this stings for Pittsburgh. Whether or not Doan will see supplementary discipline remains to be seen, but one has to imagine the league will at least glance at the incident.

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