Penguins' Kris Letang suspended 1 game for 'high, forceful hit'

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without their best defenceman for Game 4 of their second-round series against the Washington Capitals.

Kris Letang has been suspended for one game for his elbow to the head area of Capitals winger Marcus Johansson on Monday night.

The NHL's Department of Player Safety stated Letang initiated the hit after Johansson had gotten rid of the puck and "delivered a high, forceful hit that made significant head contact."

Letang will be eligible to return for Game 5 on Saturday night. 

His absence is a huge blow to the Penguins defence, which played Game 3 without emerging 21-year-old Olli Maatta.

Maatta suffered an upper body injury in Game 2 following a devastating check from Capitals defenceman Brooks Orpik in Game 2. Orpik drew a three-game suspension for the incident, serving the first game of that suspension on Monday.

Rookie Derrick Pouliot stepped into the lineup for Maatta for Game 3, playing his first ever NHL playoff game. If Maatta is not available to return, the Penguins may have to turn to 25-year-old trade deadline acquisition Justin Schultz, who hasn't played since Game 1 of the team's first-round series with New York.

But Letang's absence will be felt. He's averaging more than 29 minutes in the playoffs, has seven points in eight games, and is tasked with matching up against the Capitals top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie.

The Penguins lead the best of seven series 2-1.

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