After quite the scare last week, we got some good news out of Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang returned to practice on Thursday, just 10 days after suffering a stroke. The 35-year-old took to the ice with his teammates at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex donning a regular yellow jersey.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 8, 2022
While there is still no timetable for a return to play, Letang was in good spirits after resuming his regular duties with his teammates.
"The team brought me in and treated me like they usually do. So that made me feel at home and feel comfortable," Letang said. "To be around them, watch the games, be able to practice today - it's great for the mind."
Head coach Mike Sullivan was happy to see his veteran defenseman feeling better ahead of the Penguins' game against the Sabres in Buffalo.
"I think everybody is excited when he gets to join the team, it's just an indication of the progress that he's made," Sullivan told reporters. "He's obviously a huge part of this team, he's best friends with all of his teammates, we all care about him. So to see him on the ice, I think for all of us, it's a little bit of a sense of relief."
Pittsburgh Penguins team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas also spoke to the media briefly on Thursday, highlighting Letang's positive recovery and shedding light on his progress.
"His stroke this time was much smaller than it was last time. His symptoms have resolved a lot quicker than they did the last time as well," Dr. Vyas said. "We know what to expect - the data has also evolved in terms of how this hole (in his heart) is to be treated.
"He's always surprised us with how well he heals. We don't think this is accelerated in any way, we're taking all the right precautions to make sure he is safe to go out and play. And when that time comes, we'll let him go back to playing his sport."
Letang also suffered a stroke during the 2013-14 season, and missed two months of action.
Dr. Vyas is not concerned about any risk factor with Letang continuing his hockey career, despite his vulnerability to strokes.
"Certainly it is not the sport that created this problem for him," he said. "We don't think that playing the sport itself is risky for him."
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