Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, who has been away from the team for more than two weeks, was the first player to step onto the ice Tuesday for practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
Letang, who already was dealing with an injury, left the team after the death of his father, Claude Fouquet. Coach Mike Sullivan said on Monday that Letang would rejoin the team in “the next day or two.”
“It’s great,” Sullivan said Tuesday of having Letang back. “Obviously, he means a lot to our team. He’s part of this family. And for him to be part of this group was a great feeling for everybody. We’re looking forward to him joining us during a game, and we’re hoping that that’s sooner than later.”
Letang was wearing a white non-contact jersey, which might indicate he is still dealing with the injury. He was working with assistant coach Ty Hennes for about 35 minutes before the start of practice. He did a variety of drills and seemed to be going at full speed. After a brief rest on the bench, he joined his teammates for practice.
Although he began practice with the team, Letang left 12 minutes into the main session. Just after that, the Penguins announced that Letang had been moved from non-roster status to IR, retroactive to Dec. 28. He is eligible to come off IR at any time, but Sullivan confirmed that Letang will not play Wednesday at Ottawa and is considered day to day.
Sullivan said Tuesday was Letang’s first day on the ice after a couple weeks, an indication that Letang did not skate while he was with his family in Montreal.
Letang did not speak with reporters.
Also on the ice Tuesday among the injured players was No. 1 goaltender Tristan Jarry, who left the Jan. 2 outdoor Winter Classic because of a lower body injury and has been ramping up his pre-practice workouts, defenseman Jeff Petry and forwards Josh Archibald and Ryan Poehling. Jarry was one of three goalies, along with Casey DeSmith and Dustin Tokarski.
Archibald has missed the past 12 games because of a lower body injury and has skated some before the team. Archibald was in a white non-contact jersey.
Poehling has missed the past seven games because of an upper body injury and rejoined the team for the morning skate Monday, in a non-contact jersey. He was wearing a regular jersey Tuesday.
Petry, out the past 15 games because of an upper body injury, joined the team for the first time Monday for the morning skate, in a non-contact jersey. He wore a regular jersey Tuesday.
“These guys are getting close,” Sullivan said.
The practice appeared to be optional, with 16 players participating.