PITTSBURGH -- If Pittsburgh Penguins fans found parts of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators difficult to navigate, perhaps they should all be grateful they were not sitting with Kris Letang.
"I think when I'm sitting in the (press) box up there, the people sitting next to me don't really like me," the injured Penguins defenseman said with a grin Tuesday, the first time he has spoken publicly since he had season-ending surgery the second week of April for a herniated disc in his neck.
"I'm screaming. I don't work the best way by watching."
Letang, 30, Pittsburgh's top defenseman, is a smooth-skating, two-way blue-liner who plays big minutes and whose puck-moving skills help with breakouts and production -- despite several injury and illness setbacks, he is approaching 300 assists and 400 points in his career.
Letang also has 18 goals, 68 points in 116 career playoff games.
The Penguins surely could have used him Monday night. Perhaps their 5-3 victory might have come a bit more easily.
The Predators spotted Pittsburgh an early three-goal lead, then mounted a comeback to tie it while holding the Penguins without a shot for 37 minutes, including all of the second period and most of the third.
Letang said his recovery is going well and he hopes to get clearance to get back on the ice soon, but with an original four- to six-month recovery time, there is no chance he will play in this series.
Game 2 is Wednesday at PPG Paints Arena.
His absence led a lot of prognosticators to say the same about Pittsburgh's chances of making a deep postseason run or winning the Cup -- no chance.
The Penguins have made adjustments with their defense, most conspicuously spreading minutes fairly evenly rather than asking any player to step into Letang's go-to role.
He predicted Pittsburgh could win the Cup for the second straight year.
"For the people who were rolling their eyes, you've all seen Sidney Crosby's demeanor, what he wants to accomplish," Letang said. "He's a guy that you can look up to. I was confident to say that in front of a lot of people."
Coach Mike Sullivan has recruited Letang to help in other ways.
Letang, popular with his teammates, is encouraged to be around the club. He travels to road games. He announces the starting lineup before each game in the locker room.
On a more practical level, Letang sits in on some coaches' meetings and has informal conversations with the defensemen, whether it's individually, by the pairing or with the full group, according to Sullivan.
"We wish we had him in the lineup, but in the absence of that he's a great set of eyes," Sullivan said. "He has so much to offer this group, both our coaching staff and the team as a whole, even though he's not in our lineup."
Letang just might be coaching himself, too.
"You kind of realize things that you don't really see at the ice level," he said. "I think as a player, I'm going to learn a lot, too, watching in different situations. It's easy now to go down and tell those guys, 'Hey, this is open. You might not feel like it, but this is open.'
"It's a different aspect. I always try to think when you're watching a game, you're actually getting better, you're learning more."
Except how to remain calm in the press box.