Letang is out with a lower body injury and did not practice with the club on Thursday, just a day after putting in 26:23 in ice time against the Boston Bruins.
There was no official word on when the blueliner was hurt, but he was slow to get up after a sequence in the second period of Wednesday’s game. He didn’t miss a shift, however.
The biggest issue here will be making up for the immense ice time Letang takes up, as he’s averaged 26:04 this season – good for first on the team and seventh in the NHL. On the current six-game winning streak for the Penguins, he’s played at least 23:31 per game and clocked in seven assists.
“It won’t be easy [to replace Letang],” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “It will be by committee. We think we have capable people and we’ll sort it out. But certainly, he’s a tough guy to replace.”
The Penguins have a few replacement options, with the most likely candidate Justin Schultz. He’ll either slot in alongside Brian Dumoulin or receive a boost in existing ice time alongside Ian Cole. Either way, it looks like the 26-year-old will be in line for a promotion of sorts.
That’s not a bad thing, either, as Schultz has 17 points in 30 games this season and is a plus-14 in his past 11 games. He registered 26 shots on goal in that time frame, too.
“[Schultz] is one option, for sure,” Sullivan said. “We’ll see how it goes, but we’ve got some ideas that we think we’ll try and we’ll see how it goes.”
It’s also possible that Derrick Pouliot is called up. He was assigned to Wilkes-Barrie/Scranton earlier this month and has only played one NHL game this season due to an injury, but he’s certainly a possibility as he likes to move the puck.
The Penguins host the Los Angeles Kings on Friday and have eight games left in December ahead of a week off to start January.