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Pens recall Chad Ruhwehdel, place Kris Letang on IR

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With two defensive injuries in the last two games, the Pittsburgh Penguins defense is not looking very pretty right now. Find out why it's a big deal, aside from the obvious.

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After Trevor Daley was injured during last night's game (and Brian Dumoulin scarily took a puck to the visor), a fear arose that the Penguins might have to bring up another defenseman. That's been realized. From the team:

The Pittsburgh Penguins have recalled defenseman Chad Ruhwedel from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

Defenseman Kris Letang has been placed on injured reserve.

Ruhwedel, 26, has helped WBS compile the top record in the AHL, tallying 13 points (3G-10A) in 26 games, the second-highest total among defensemen on the club.

Earlier this season, the 5-foot-11, 191-pound blueliner spent a couple days with Pittsburgh, but he did not appear in a game.

A native of San Diego, California, Ruhwedel broke into the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres as an undrafted free agent, collecting two assists in 33 NHL contests over parts of four years.

Important to stress, as always, in the NHL the IR is no big deal, Letang can be removed from it after a week, it's only a move necessary to keep the team under the roster limit of 23 active players to have space to bring up Ruhwedel.

Ruhwedel, for his part, is a right handed defenseman with some NHL experience and has been playing pretty well by all accounts in the minors. He's not an NHL caliber player every night, but not the worst depth option to have.

The worse picture is what the Penguins are going to have to make do without.

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The Penguins have an awful lot of minutes to replace now that their top two defensemen are seemingly on the shelf. Daley and Letang combine to play 36 minutes per night at even strength (often most of the toughest ones, too) and 4 and a half short-handed. Letang being off the top power play might factor in too, though Justin Schultz has been electric this season that unit did not score in the first game without Letang.

No news has surfaced on Daley's official availability or injury details, but those figure to be scarce and the typical "lower" or "upper" body injury.

On one hand, there is some relief with a "bye week" coming up for the Pens. For the first season, the NHL has built a full off week for teams at some point during the season. That will be Jan 1-7 for Pittsburgh.

However, the issue becomes a compressed schedule to make up for that full bye week. The Penguins are in a stretch where they play 12 games in the 24 days from Dec 8- 31, including 3 back-to-back situations. That's a lot, and it's actually worse considering there's some mandatory time off for Christmas on Dec 24-25.

So even though the whole team will get a period to rest in 2 weeks, the lead-up to get there is pretty rough. And now, they may just have to do it without their two leading defensemen, pending the status of Daley.