It’s been less than two months, but it’s the kind of stretch that can leave deep marks, and that could well be the case with Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang.
“I guess in life sometimes it goes like that,” Letang said Saturday after practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, the first time he has spoken publicly in more than three weeks.
“You don’t really control everything. You have to live through it. Sometimes you can go through times like this and you have to rely on your family and your close ones to be there for you and support you.”
Consider what Letang, 35, has endured after he started the season with six weeks or so playing at a noticeable high level:
*On Nov. 28, he felt off. Tests showed he had had his second stroke in eight years, but this was looked to be less severe.
*Just 10 days later, Letang was able to return to practice.
*On Dec. 10, he returned to game action.
*On Dec 28, he sustained a lower-body injury.
*On Jan. 2, while in Boston to be with the Penguins for the outdoor Winter Classic despite not being able to play, Letang left the team to go to Montreal because of the death of his father, Claude Fouquet.
*On Jan. 8, the team traveled all night after a game at Arizona to be with Letang for his father’s funeral.
*Tuesday, Letang rejoined the team, but, still injured, skated separately.
Letang declined to talk about the loss of his father, but on the other end of the spectrum he used the word “grateful” more than once to describe how he feels about the support from the Penguins.
“It feels great,” he said. “It was an emotional time. I’m grateful for everything the team has done for me the last few weeks. It’s good to be back with these guys and change my (mindset) a little.”
Letang said it’s unclear when he will be ready to play again.
“I’ve been feeling better and better every day,” he said. “We go day by day. We don’t want to take a chance, especially (since) there’s a break coming (for All-Star weekend and a bye week).
“We’re going day by day until I’m confident I can go out there and be good.”
Still, being around the game, even if not in games, helps.
“It helps for me to get out there and try to do what I love to do,” he said.