Short-handed Pittsburgh Penguins lose defenseman Kris Letang to COVID-19 protocol

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without Kris Letang against Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night after the defenseman was placed in NHL's COVID-19 protocol.

Coach Mike Sullivan announced Letang's status following the morning skate.

Letang is the latest Penguins player to be sidelined in the early stages of the season, a group headlined by stars Sidney Crosby (wrist) and Evgeni Malkin (knee), both recovering from offseason surgeries.

The Penguins are off to a solid start without Crosby and Malkin, posting a 2-0-2 mark heading into Saturday night's visit from Toronto.

Crosby and Malkin are hardly the only Penguins players banged up. Forward Bryan Rust is "week to week" with a lower-body injury. Veteran center Jeff Carter, who has filled in for Crosby as the first-line center, will also miss Saturday night's visit by the Maple Leafs after testing positive for COVID-19.

Sullivan said Friday that Carter is asymptomatic but will be unavailable against Toronto. The team did receive a bit of good news Friday when it turned out that top goaltender Tristan Jarry had a "false positive" COVID test on Thursday, freeing up his return to practice.