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Penguins star defenceman Letang speaks for first time after stroke

PITTSBURGH, Pa. - He's missed five games already, and defenceman Kris Letang isn't sure if he'll be back with the Pittsburgh Penguins this season.

The 26-year-old Montreal native suffered a stroke in January. Although the 2013 Norris Trophy winner has resumed working out, he's non-commital about exactly when he'll be back on the ice playing for the Penguins.

"I'm going to say, it's not really a good season for me, not really lucky," Letang told reporters Thursday in his first availability since the stroke. "But honestly, if I have the chance to come back this year and play, it's going to be great and I want make sure I forget all about the three quarters of the season I missed."

Letang will undergo more tests in about three weeks.

"I have some good days, some bad days," Letang said. "I think the most difficult thing is around family, everybody is really careful.

"I can't even lift their luggage without having them try to help me out. Otherwise, it's been just mentally a little bit tough."

Doctors have monitored Letang since his stroke, meeting with him twice weekly. He's currently taking blood-thinners and will continue doing so for now.

Tests also showed Letang has a small hole in the wall of his heart, a condition all people have before they are born. But the hole eventually shuts for the vast majority of babies shortly after birth.

Letang suffered the stroke in the morning of Jan. 29 and it was his wife, Catherine, who found him on the floor. Letang was still alert but unable to function.

"I woke up and my wife found me on the ground," Letang said. "The day before I was totally fine.

"I was practising. I woke up that morning not expecting that would happen. I drove to the airport with my mom and thought it would clear up, but it never did."

Fortunately for Letang, he won't require surgery and the doctors feel he'll be able to make a complete recovery and eventually resume playing. But for now, Letang is taking his recovery on a daily basis.

"I always want to get back and play games," he said. "If I have a chance to come back this year and play it's going to be great.

"To be around the team, around the rink, working out, I'm trying to take steps to get closer to coming back."

The six-foot, 201-pound Letang has 10 goals and 18 points in 34 games this season. He hasn't played since Jan. 27 against the Buffalo Sabres.

Letang also missed 19 games earlier this year with a knee injury and elbow infection.

Letang is in his seventh NHL season, all with Pittsburgh. He has 44 goals and 165 assists in 385 career regular-season games with the Penguins while adding 13 goals and 34 assists in 80 post-season contest.

Letang helped Pittsburgh win the 2009 Stanley Cup.

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