Less than two weeks after he suffered the second stroke of his NHL career, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang returned to practice on Thursday. Letang and team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas spoke to reporters about the progress he has made.
On Nov. 30, the Penguins. The team said it expected Letang back at some point this season, but the veteran defenseman could be back in the lineup relatively soon.
After practice, Letang said it felt good to be on the ice with his teammates, but he is still working on getting his conditioning where it needs to be.
"I feel pretty good," Letang said. "Obviously, when you don't skate with the team or you don't skate for an hour of high intensity, you kind of lose that conditioning, so it's about building that back up. I was able to skate a little bit on my own, and today felt pretty good."
Letang also said that it was a "scary" experience for his wife and children, who were simply worried about having a healthy husband and father.
"Scary, to be honest," Letang said. "My kids, they don't care if I'm a hockey player or not. They care if they have a dad. Same thing with my wife. She could care less about hockey and everything. She knows there's so much more. After hockey, there's a long time. You want to be able to enjoy those moments with your family and your kids.
"It was hard, but like I said, we've been through this. Me and Dharmesh have a clear understanding that we've got to take all the time we need, and we'll make all the research possible to make sure it's safer for me to play and there's no danger for me to keep going."
Letang suffered a stroke in 2014, and the medical team discovered that it was caused by a small hole in his heart that never healed itself. That season, it took Letang several months to return, but it may not take that long this time around.
During his press conference, Vyas explained why Letang's timeline for return will be considerably shorter this season.
"Several factors," Vyas said. "Last time, we actually had to figure out why he had the stroke. We already know that now. The timeline, in terms of diagnostics, was much shorter. We're just confirming what we knew already. Secondly his stroke this time is much smaller than it was last time. The symptoms have resolved a lot quicker than they did last time as well. We also know what to expect. The data has evolved in terms of how this will be treated."
Now in his 17th NHL season, Letang is still playing top-pairing minutes for the Penguins and has 12 points in 21 games.