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Gameday 14: Ottawa brings their defense to town

A gameday preview for the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators. The two teams met two and a half weeks ago and the Pens won 2-1 in a shootout. Ottawa's defense has been great, with starting goalie Craig Anderson allowing just 15 goals in 11 games.

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6 Total Updates since February 13, 2013
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Good sign: Pens take Niskanen, Letang off IR

The Pittburgh Penguins have announced that defensemen Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen have been activated from injured reserve. To make room on the roster Dylan Reese (0 points in 3 games) has been sent back down to Wilkes-Barre of the AHL. Since Reese was an emergency call-up and hasn't played more than 10 games, he does not have to clear waivers and will report back.

Niskanen was hurt with an undisclosed lower-body injury in the Pens fifth game, which was against the same Ottawa Senators they'll see tonight. Niskanen is also "mustache boy" so we'll see if the few weeks away has done anything for that 'stache that he must wear until the end of this month.

Letang has missed the past three games with an undisclosed injury believed to be mostly precautionary. In his absence the Pens are 1-2-0, but have not looked strong at even-strength where they miss their leading minute eater.

Coach Dan Bylsma has said both are game-time decisions to get in the lineup, but the fact that both are officially off of IR is a good sign. If both dress, expect one of Robert Bortuzzo, Deryk Engelland or Simon Despres to be a healthy scratch for tonight's game. Bortuzzo could be the most likely target, but has arguably played the best of the three recently, so if merit is considered, he might get a sweater.

Regardless, it's a welcome healthy turn for the Penguins, who currently don't have any major injuries at this time in a lockout-shortened NHL season.

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Fleury and league's best goalie, Anderson in net

From all over the internet, it'll be a battle of the top goaltenders for each team tonight, with Marc-Andre Fleury leading the Penguins and facing him down will be Craig Anderson.

Anderson has been the league's best goalie so far this season, allowing an unrealistic 15 goals in 11 games. Look at the league leaders for goaltending. Anderson_medium

GAA, save percentage, wins, shutouts, take your pick and it's all Anderson's goofy face.

Anderson played last night and stopped all 42 shots he saw against Buffalo. That gave me a false hope maybe he'd get the night off, but clearly I was wrong there.

The Penguins saw Anderson on January 27th, and, true to form, he was very good on that day stopping 33 of 34 shots in regulation and over-time. Then the shootout happened, and as the Iron Sheik might say, Pittsburgh humbled Anderson the "old country way" when James Neal, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin all scored shootout goals to the give Pens the win and extra point in the standings.

Fleury, for his part, has been good of late too, winning three of his last four games and allowing two goals a game in the stretch. Not Anderson numbers, so one has to figure the Penguins are only going to score 1 or 2 goals tonight you have to figure they are probably in trouble when the clock hits 0:00.

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Letang 100% & ready to play, according to Letang

According to Kris Letang, Kris Letang is 100% and could be in the lineup as soon as tonight for the Pittsburgh Penguins game against the Ottawa Senators.

@penguins Kris Letang: "Reason I didn't play for 3 games was because I wanted to get to 100%. I feel pretty good. I'm ready to go....It's coaches decision (to play)."

Letang missed a few practices last week but continued to play on as normal, recording his usual team high in ice-time (25:1), an assist, 2 blocked shots and three hits in last week's win over the New York Islanders before missing the last three games.

The Penguins could badly use Letang- Pittsburgh was pretty much even early in the game against Washington (before the Pens PP turned the game) and the Pens were totally outmatched by the New Jersey Devils in the other two games. Jersey was able to seal off the passing walls and trap the Pens in their own end for extended stretches, quite the rarity for a Dan Bylsma coached team. In order to avoid that, having a defenseman like Letang (or the also injured Matt Niskanen) to be able to skate pucks outof danger is crucial.

That said, it's believed Letang has a groin injury, and given the importance of each game in a shortened season, it's better to be safe than sorry. The last thing the team needs is to let an eager player come back a game too early and have a 3-4 week setback.

We'll see how it goes, expect Bylsma to call it a "game time decision" and probably keep the decision close to the vest right up until this evening. If Letang can play, Dylan Reese figures to be the odd man out.

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