Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang stopped the hockey world on Tuesday, not with one of his end-to-end rushes or even of “those” plays. It stopped everyone when the Penguins announced Letang had a stroke on Monday.
On Saturday, head coach Mike Sullivan offered some encouraging news, including Letang back on the ice.
“His spirits are really good. You know, he’s making progress,” Sullivan said. “He looks really good. He skated yesterday. A lot of that is still not in the form of structured hockey skates but just getting out on the ice (which is good). And he’s working out a little bit.”
The Penguins have not set a timetable for Letang’s return. In 2014, when the defenseman suffered his first and more severe stroke, he missed two months.
While the team made a point to stress the second stroke was not as serious, a stroke remains a significant health event, even for one of the fittest players in the NHL.
“I just think (fitness) is part of his DNA. That’s his comfort zone. Our doctors are monitoring him very closely,” said Sullivan. “So everything he’s doing at this point, he gets approval from our medical team. He is making progress, and he’s in great spirits. He looks really good. So we’re hopeful if he continues to progress here — at some point here — we could re-engage from a hockey standpoint.”
This season Kris Letang has had ups and downs. His statistics lag behind his usual output because of the Penguins’ struggling power play. He has 12 points (1-11-12) in 21 games. He missed the last two Pittsburgh Penguins games, including the emotional 4-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday.
The Penguins host the St. Louis Blues on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena.