Injuries Threaten to Derail Pittsburgh Penguins as Playoffs Draw Near

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Injuries Threaten to Derail Pittsburgh Penguins as Playoffs Draw Near
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Injuries are a concern for every team, but for good teams, they can bring them back to the pack.

Welcome back, Kris Letang. Hope to see you again soon.

For Pittsburgh Penguins fans, the only recent concerns have involved the training table. Unfortunately, that room is beginning to fill up, and that poses as big a threat to the Pens' title aspirations as any team on the ice.

After being activated for the Tuesday night encounter with the Montreal Canadiens, defenseman Kris Letang has found himself on the wrong side of the injury report. TSN.ca is reporting Letang suffered a broken toe. 

It is still unclear at this point how long Letang will be out, but the Penguins will be forced to fill a huge void during his absence. The news of Letang's new injury was compounded with Marc-Andre Fleury leaving the Montreal game after the second period.

Fleury was crashed into by his own player and received a visit from the trainer on the ice. He would finish the final minute of the period but was replaced by Tomas Vokoun for the third frame. The same TSN report on Letang stated Fleury has a sore neck but did not offer further details.

These injuries are just a further reminder of how quickly a team's fortunes can change.

The Penguins have settled in well without key players over the last few weeks, but players like Letang, Evgeni Malkin and Fleury are nearly impossible to replace from within the organization. Multiple injuries to the core of the team can only be overcome for so long.

Vokoun is a solid goalie with lots of experience, but is he capable of filling Fleury's skates for a playoff run if needed? This question can be asked of those who have to step in for Letang and Malkin, as well.

It is one thing to try to fill this type of void for a week or two during the regular season, but handling the same situation in the playoffs is a different story.

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
The return of Malkin makes a great offensive team downright scary.

Injuries wipe out a team's depth. They increase ice time for many players to compensate. More ice time leads to fatigue and more potential injuries. The snowball effect can take hold and bring even the best teams back to the pack. Injuries are the great equalizer and can wipe away the talent gap the Penguins hold over most of their competitors.

The good news is Malkin will be returning soon, and Fleury may only miss a single game. Letang's time away may also be less then expected depending on the type of break and the toe broken.

What this situation does give is a view of a scenario that can take the fortunes of the Pens' season out of their own hands. Even though they are a part of the game, it would be a shame to see injuries rob fans from seeing what this team could accomplish.

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