It’s been a little less than two months since Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang suffered a stroke.
Today, he was back at practice.
Both Bennett and Letang have been cleared for full practice participation #Pens
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 16, 2014
It’s still unclear whether or not Letang will return this season, but that’s certainly his goal. It wouldn’t be any other way for a competitive, professional athlete. Heck, just last week Rich Peverley wanted back on the ice after collapsing from a heart ailment.
“There’s no doubt in my mind (his goal is to return his season),” Letang said. “Even the day I got the stroke, I asked the doctor when I’m going to be able to play again. So there’s no doubt about it. If I’m on the ice today, it’s because I want to return.”
Last week, doctors decided it was safe to take Letang off blood thinners. And though his teammates were, obviously, concerned about being physical with him during today’s skate, the 26-year-old defenseman expressed to them that he wanted to face that challenge.
If Letang returns this year, it would be nothing short of incredible and unexpected. Last season, Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson returned two months after his Achilles tendon was sliced by a skate blade, long before anyone thought it was humanly possible. Letang’s situation is much more unpredictable and prone for a setback, but here were are talking about him returning to the ice far before we ever anticipated.
The Penguins have won half of their 14 games since Letang has been out of the lineup. His puck-moving presence on the blueline is sorely needed, even if, like Karlsson, he doesn’t return in peak, Norris potential form.
It’s an amazing and positive development of a troubling story. The worst thing about today was that Letang admitted to being winded at the end of practice – and that’s not bad at all.
Said Bylsma: “To see him back out there…we did a drill and I’m offering resistance and to see Kris Letang coming with that speed, I was like ‘Wow, haven’t seen that in a lot of cases from our team.’ ”