EDMONTON - PITTSBURGH — Despite having yet to face them this season, Mark Letestu knows the Edmonton Oilers very well.
The Pittsburgh Penguins centre grew up watching the Oilers play and is looking forward to going up against them Sunday at the CONSOL Energy Center.
"I'm pretty familiar with them, my in-laws are season ticket holders, my family is pretty involved with the organization, so I keep up pretty closely with them," Letestu said. "Obviously, they're having some injury problems right now. But they're scrappy. They almost had Detroit Friday night and I expect them to be a team that is going to battle for everything they're going to get."
Growing up in Elk Point, Letestu, 26, played junior hockey with the Bonnyville Pontiacs before moving on to Western Michigan University for a season.
Undrafted, he signed with the Penguins following his freshman year and spent four seasons with their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, before cracking the Penguins roster this season.
Sunday will be the first time he'll play against the Oilers.
"It's going to be exciting," Letestu said. "I know it's going to be on television at home and every time the family gets a chance to watch, it's pretty special for me. Being the hometown team, we want to put on a good performance. Hopefully I'll have the bragging rights all summer."
The Penguins head into the contest following a 3-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. Having lost Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to injury this season, the Penguins suddenly find scoring difficult. Yet, they've still managed to keep their spot near the top of the Atlantic Division.
"I think the fact that Sid and Geno (Malkin) are out draws to the fact that we're a pretty good defensive team," Letestu said. "When they're in the lineup there is a lot of attention on those guys to score and we're considered an offensive team. But we're pretty good defensively. Now that they're out, it's bringing more attention to that part of the game."
Malkin was lost for the season with a knee injury, while Crosby has been out since early January with a concussion.
There is no word on whether the Penguins star will be able to make it back this season.
"I'd like to think he's coming back," Letestu said. "I think we're all optimistic that we're going to get our captain back. I don't know the timeline and I don't think it's fair to give him one. But when he's ready, he'll come back and I'm optimistic that we're going to have him for the playoffs."