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Ryan Whitney, left, hasn't played in the NHL since the Stanley Cup final last June. ((Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press))

Pittsburgh defenceman Ryan Whitney will suit up for the first time this season when the Penguins host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

Whitney, who has been recovering from off-season foot surgery, made a conditioning appearance Saturday with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL, but hadn't played in the NHL since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final last June.

"It's good to be back," he said. "It's exciting. It'll be nice to be finally getting into games and not watching anymore. That was getting old."

Whitney, 25, had 40 points (12 goals) in 76 regular-season games in 2007-08, and added six more points (one goal) in 20 playoff contests.

He was Pittsburgh's second-highest-scoring defenceman behind Sergei Gonchar, who has yet to play this season due to shoulder surgery and could be out until at least February.

"We're excited to have [Whitney] back in our lineup," said Penguins coach Michel Therrien. "He's an important player. He's a player that moves the puck really well. He does a good job in the transition game. He's got good vision with the puck."

Whitney skated in place of fellow defenceman Kris Letang, who suffered an undisclosed injury in Pittsburgh's 4-3 overtime victory at Buffalo on Monday. He's listed as day to day.

Therrien said he'll take it slow with Whitney's reintegration into the lineup.

"You can't expect Ryan Whitney to be the guy that he was at the end of the season last year," Therrien said. "He's going to have to be patient. He didn't have any training camp. He played one game in Wilkes-Barre. It's going to be a process."