- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang said he respects the decision made by the NHL on Tuesday to suspend him for one game following a hit on Marcus Johansson a day earlier.

Letang, speaking following the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ morning skate, will not play in Game 4 of their second-round series against the Washington Capitals, which they lead by one game, on Wednesday night.

The Penguins‘ top defenseman has played an average of 32:27 over the first three games of the series, including 35:22, the most he has played in a regulation game in the regular season or in the playoffs, in parts of 10 seasons in the NHL.

“The game, it happens so fast,” Letang said. “These types of things, there are a lot of things that are reviewable. I respect their decision and I have no other choice [but] to wait through the decision. We’ll take that one game and keep working and come back for Game 5.”

Letang was called for interference at 15:41 of the first period of the Penguins‘ 3-2 victory on Monday following an open-ice hit on Johansson. The league’s department of player safety handed down the discipline on Tuesday afternoon, ruling that the hit made significant contact with Johansson’s head and that it was delivered late, considering Johansson had already passed the puck to Justin Williams.

The suspension was imposed two days after the league handed down a three-game ban to the Capitals’ Brooks Orpik, who was penalized for a hit to the head of Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta in Game 2.

“I think the league did its job,” Capitals right wing Tom Wilson said. “Everyone was comparing the Orpik hit and the Letang hit when they were completely different hits. I don’t think it’s fair to say, ‘Orpik got three, Letang got one.’ I think they were looking at a variety of different things between the two hits. It is what it is. You’ve got one game, and like I’ve said, we’re worried about us. We’re just trying to kind of take it to them no matter who’s in the lineup for them.”

Pittsburgh will likely incorporate Justin Schultz, who was active for the opener of the first-round series against the New York Rangers but has not played since. Schultz, acquired from the Edmonton Oilers at the trade deadline, appeared in 18 games for the Penguins.

“It’s certainly tough to replace a guy that has that much of an influence on our team, but we believe we have depth,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ll spread his minutes amongst the group and we’ll try to put the guys in situations where they can play to their strengths. It has to be a committee approach.”

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