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Rangers getting healthier, Penguins not so much

Pittsburgh was already without Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (knee/illness) for tonight's game at the Garden. The Pens lost rookie center Mark Letestu to a lower-body injury after about five minutes on the Garden ice for today's morning skate.

So Pittsburgh's top line will be another rookie, Dustin Jeffrey, centering Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. Eric Godard will slide in and play fourth-line wing, but with Letestu out, the Penguins are missing three of their top five goal-scorers.

"The one thing we don't do is change our game," said Jordan Staal, whose return from a pair of foot injuries on New Year's Day has turned out to be a lifesaver down the middle for the Pens. "We've got a lot of goals out of the lineup, obviously, but we're going to do what we've always done, which is try to play well defensively."

It's an overlooked fact that the Penguins are among the league's top defensive teams -- second-best, in fact, behind only the Bruins. So Crosby and Malkin get the headlines for their scoring ability, but this is a team that can grind out wins with a vastly improved defense and Marc-Andre Fleury playing better than he did a year ago.

"It's the same approach," said Brooks Orpik. "It'd be great if we had those guys back, but honestly, it's not something that's talked about that much in here."

Crosby will miss his 10th game and he still hasn't been cleared to resume skating. Malkin traveled here with the Penguins and may return for tomorrow's home game with the Islanders. Letestu is headed home for more tests.

"It's just another challenge for us to face," coach Dan Bylsma said.

New York Sports