Alex Pietrangelo has been a difference-maker for the Vegas Golden Knights all season and through their run to the Stanley Cup Final, but in an alternate universe the defenseman might not be on the ice with his teammates this spring.
Pietrangelo dealt with a family health emergency in November when a flu bug his five-year-old daughter caught developed into encephalitis, the inflammation of active tissues of the brain. As a result, the child lost control of her motor skills.
"[She] basically slept for 10 straight days,” Pietrangelo told the Associated Press. “Life can change like that. Sometimes you take things for granted and sometimes things like that happen and it kind of puts you back on your rear end and says, ‘Be grateful for what you have.'"
Treatment helped eliminate his daughter's brain lesion a week later and she was able to return home within a month. Even though Pietrangelo says it will still take "a couple years" for his daughter to get back to where she should be, she is in good physical shape.
During the height of the health scare, Pietrangelo admitted he didn't know when he'd be able to return to NHL action.
“That was the first time I’ve ever even thought about coming back to play. Like, it wasn’t even a question,” Pietrangelo said. “I wasn’t gonna go back until I was ready to go back. Until I knew she was good, my wife was good, and the other three (kids) were good, I wasn’t gonna go back. So, I went back when I felt like I was ready.”
The 33-year-old ended up missing nine games and is back to being a key cog for a Golden Knights team that is three wins away from lifting the Stanley Cup. But getting back on the ice wouldn't have been possible without his wife Jayne's massive contributions at home.
“I think my wife has had to sacrifice her time and energy more than I have — she gets it," Pietrangelo said. "She’s been down this road, so without her, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do now and during the season. It’s special."
Pietrangelo has one goal and eight assists in 17 playoff games and is the club's runaway leader in average ice time per game at 23:42. His teammates aren't taking his performance for granted, especially given what he's endured in his personal life this season.
“Seeing what he’s been through, the way he’s overcome some of those adversities is awesome to see,” fellow blueliner Shea Theodore said. “He’s been a backbone and we’re really excited for him. The way he’s been playing has been good and hopefully him and everyone can kind of keep it up.”