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Teenagers Staal, Letang make Penguins' opening roster

PITTSBURGH -- Jordan Staal and Kristopher Letang made the
Pittsburgh Penguins' opening day roster Monday, joining with
Sidney Crosby to give the rebuilding team a franchise-first three teens on
the roster.

With Evgeni Malkin added in once he recovers from a dislocated
shoulder -- he turned 20 slightly more than two months ago -- the
Penguins may have their youngest roster in their 40-season history
as they try to bounce back from four consecutive last-place
finishes.

Staal, who turned 18 last month, was the No. 2 pick in the June
draft and still could wind up playing most of the season in junior
hockey. But with Malkin likely to miss the first few games of the
season, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Staal gives the Penguins depth,
size and a scoring threat at center until Malkin returns.

"I hope I can be here for years to come," said Staal, the
younger brother of Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes star
Eric Staal and defenseman Marc Staal of the New York Rangers.

For now, his service time may last only a few weeks, or until
the Penguins determine if he is in over his head.

Letang, a 19-year-old defenseman and the Penguins' second-round
pick behind Crosby in 2005, and Staal can appear in up to nine
games without that time counting toward free agency or the
expiration of their NHL contracts.

Staal had 28 goals and 40 assists in 68 games last season for
Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League. Letang, 5-11 and 190
pounds, had 25 goals and 43 assists in 60 games for Val d'Or of the
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Letang is more of an offensive force than he is a defender, much
like Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar.

"I wanted to make the team when I came to camp," said Letang,
who was given little chance of doing so when the Penguins' rookies
reported nearly a month ago.

Coach Michel Therrien also announced that Marc-Andre Fleury, the
No. 1 pick in 2003, will start Thursday's season opener against
Philadelphia. The 21-year-old Fleury was inconsistent throughout
training camp before stopping 25 of 28 shots in a 4-2 exhibition
loss Saturday to Buffalo.

"We have a lot of confidence in the kid, even though during
training camp he was not quite sharp," Therrien said.

For now, the Penguins will carry three goalies in Fleury,
Jocelyn Thibault and rookie Dany Sabourin. They risked losing
Thibault or Sabourin on waivers if they tried to send either back
to the minors.

Thibault signed with the Penguins last season to be their
starter, only to have a 1-9-3 record and a 4.46 goals-against
average in 16 games. He missed most of the season after tearing
cartilage in his left hip, allowing Fleury to become the primary
starter.

Fleury had an excellent first month in the NHL at age 18 after
being drafted in 2003 but has been inconsistent since, though he
has yet to play a full season in the NHL. He was 13-27-6 with a
3.25 goals-against average in 50 games last season and 2-3 in five
playoff games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL).

The Penguins reassigned five players to Wilkes-Barre: forwards
Daniel Carcillo, Libor Pivko, Ryan Stone and Maxime Talbot and
defenseman Noah Welch. Welch had a goal and three assists in five
Penguins games last season, spending most of the season at
Wilkes-Barre.