Any notion that the Pittsburgh Penguins might ease Kris Letang back into the lineup after missing about two and a half months due to a stroke proved to be inaccurate.
Letang logged 22:30 minutes in Pittsburgh’s 4-3 shootout victory over Detroit in his return last night and he doesn’t seem to mind one bit.
“I felt pretty good,” said Letang, per the Penguins’ website. “I had a lot of fun. It wasn’t perfect structure-wise for me. I’m just happy to be on the ice. It’s something I missed a lot.”
He added that he felt “totally normal” despite how much the Penguins leaned on him.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma praised Letang’s superb conditioning, which is what allowed him to play big minutes despite his lengthy absence.
This all might cause some fans to be nervous that the Penguins might ask him to do too much, too fast after going through such a serious event. That being said, his doctors concluded that hockey wasn’t the cause of his stroke and playing doesn’t increase his risk of having another one.
“He’s at no greater risk to suffer a stroke (from playing hockey) than he would be going to the grocery store,” Penguins GM Ray Shero asserted.
That’s of course great news for Letang and Pittsburgh, which can certainly use him going into the playoffs. The Penguins have dominated during the regular season, but over the last few years they have repeatedly fallen short of expectations in the postseason.
Getting Letang back might not change that trend, but there’s no question that they’re a much better team with him in the lineup.