Penguins’ season comes down to Saturday, will be without Letang for any playoff run

The month of April is one the Penguins would soon like to forget and we’re only 10 days in. Friday provided no relief for the reeling team.

First, Pittsburgh announced defenseman Derrick Pouliot was unavailable for the massively important game that evening against the Islanders. With the Pens bumping right against the salary cap, they were in a now all to familiar situation of having to ice five defensemen, and if needed, drop forward Daniel Winnik down to help out.

Next, in the massively important game referenced above: they lost. Dropping the game meant the Penguins would not clinch a playoff spot, but not all hope is lost. Pittsburgh has drawn the lowly Buffalo Sabres in the final game of the regular season. Having locked up the No. 1 spot in the draft lottery, all Buffalo is playing for at this point is pride and (possibly) a final win for head coach Ted Nolan.

The catalyst of the ‘will they, won’t they make it’ discussion, for both Boston and Pittsburgh, are the Ottawa Senators. The Sens take on the Flyers at 12:30pm ET. Based on the result of the game, the Bruins and Penguins will know what they have to do to get in in their games later on.

From NHL.com, here’s how Ottawa, Pittsburgh, and Boston can make it into the big dance:

“If Ottawa wins or gets to overtime, only one of Pittsburgh and Boston can qualify. If the Senators lose in regulation, the Penguins and Bruins each can get in with a victory.”

That may not be the biggest news out of Pittsburgh. Kris Letang has missed seven games with a concussion and he’s not coming back anytime soon. As Dejan Kovacevic reported, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford stated, “[Letang will not play] even if we make a deep run in the playoffs.”

Sean Gentille of The Sporting News encapsulated the feeling around the news:

Friday night’s was the seventh game Letang missed after a March 28 concussion that initially sent him to hospital. He banged his head off the boards after an awkward hit from Coyotes captain Shane Doan, and that would’ve been cause enough for concern. Throw in a history of concussions and a stroke in 2013 — which still feels odd to type — and the concern factor quadruples.

Kris Letang is 27-years-old. To have gone through what he has and continue to remain an elite athlete is nothing short of remarkable. It would be irresponsible to speculate on what his future holds for him. All we can hope right now is that he gets better.