NEW YORK -- John Marino is going to slide into Kris Letang's spot when the Penguins play the Islanders tonight at 7:08 at Barclays Center.
But while he'll fill Letang's place alongside Brian Dumoulin on the No. 1 defense pairing, Marino won't be taking on Letang's entire workload.
Letang, after all, was averaging 25 minutes of ice time per game before being injured during the Penguins' 6-4 loss in Boston Monday. Marino, who has just 13 NHL games on his resume, has averaged 17:17, and has been working on the No. 3 pairing.
"I'm sure we'll spread the minutes," Mike Sullivan said today. "We're going to have to replace it by committee. We've got some balance throughout the three pairs right now and we'll adjust accordingly."
How long Marino will be with Dumoulin is unclear. Sullivan confirmed that Letang is out tonight and said it is "not a probability" that he will return when the Blackhawks visit PPG Paints Arena Saturday at 7:08 p.m.
Sullivan said the coaching staff decided to put Marino with Dumoulin because he's "played extremely well for us. He has great mobility, defends well. He's got a good stick."
Marino acknowledged that while he will take on some of Letang's duties, he doesn't expect to render him obsolete.
"I don't think anyone can really replace Kris Letang," he said. "He's Kris Letang for a reason."
Juuso Riikola, who has gotten most of his work this season on the wing, will take over Marino's usual place with Jack Johnson.
The only tandem that remains intact will be Marcus Pettersson and Justin Schultz.
Riikola is a left-handed shot, but will be playing on the right side. Working on the off-side is a problem for some players, but Riikola said it's a non-issue for him because he played it "almost all of last year. It's a little bit different, but you have to do what you have to do."
Johnson said he doesn't anticipate any problems with having Riikola as a partner.
"He does everything well," Johnson said. "He skates well, handles the puck well, plays with an edge."
Johnson said he will not alter his game simply because he's working with someone new.
"I trust my partner to do his job," he said. "Just like I hope he trusts me."
• Sidney Crosby is aware the Islanders have won 10 games in a row, but said New York's hot streak won't affect how the Penguins approach the game. "I don't think we're too worried about what our opponent's record is, or streaks, or anything like that," he said. "For us, it's important to get wins. We've played some pretty decent hockey here and haven't gotten the results we wanted here, so we have to find a way to bring the same type of effort and mentality, but turn some of those losses into wins."
• The Penguins' No. 1 power play during their game-day skate featured Evgeni Malkin, Justin Schultz, Alex Galchenyuk, Jake Guentzel and Crosby.
• Alex Galchenyuk has dealt with several medical issues since the preseason, but finally seems to be getting his game in order. "I think he's getting stronger with every game he plays," Sullivan said. "Since the start of training camp, he hasn't really been healthy for any consistent length of time. He's healthy and feels strong right now. With every game that he plays, I think he gets more comfortable."
• Here are the personnel combinations the Penguins used during the skate, including having forward Sam Lafferty on defense:
Jake Guentzel -- Sidney Crosby -- Dominik Simon
Alex Galchenyuk -- Evgeni Malkin -- Bryan Rust
Jared McCann -- Nick Bjugstad -- Dominik Kahun
Zach Aston-Reese -- Teddy Blueger -- Brandon Tanev
Brian Dumoulin -- John Marino
Marcus Pettersson -- Justin Schultz
Jack Johnson -- Juuso Riikola
Sam Lafferty -- Chad Ruhwedel
To continue reading, log into your account: