This has not been Kris Letang's year. The Pittsburgh Penguins talented offensive defenseman has been placed on IR twice and has not produced to his capacity (18 points in 34 games). But those woes mean nothing compared to the team's announcement today. After missing the last four games, it was revealed that Kris Letang has suffered a stroke and will miss at least six weeks. It will most certainly be more and has a outside chance of being a career ender.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero explained, "Kris had one brief episode of dizziness and nausea last week. We held him out of the Los Angeles game Thursday night, and when he continued to feel ill, tests conducted in Phoenix on Saturday gave us the first indication of his condition. Further testing then was conducted when he returned to Pittsburgh, and he continued to undergo a battery of tests here this week.”
Head coach Dan Bylsma said, "My conversations over the last three days with Kris haven’t had much to do with the power play, that’s for certain. More over just concern for Kris the person and his health and where he’s at, not even in his career, just where he’s at in a health standpoint.”
Letang said, "I hope that by making my condition public at this time, I can help other people by encouraging them to seek medical help if they experience some of the symptoms associated with a stroke – regardless of their age or general health. It obviously was a shock to get the news but I’m optimistic that I can overcome this and get back on the ice.”
Doctors have placed Letang on blood thinners for the next six weeks. At the end of that period, evaluations will be made to see if surgery to close a tiny hole in his heart will be needed. Letang has been dealing with that since birth and doctors think maybe it caused his stroke. No matter how you slice it, Letang's timetable will be a lengthy.
Now for the cold hard reality; how do the Penguins overcome the loss of Letang? Here's where the good news rolls in. A trade to replace Letang will not be nessecary. The Pens have showcased their blueliner depth all year. Guys like Brian Dumoulin and Philip Samuelsson might get called up, or Simon Despres's exile might come to a end. The chances of Derrick Pouliot walking through the door is good. He is destroying the WHL with 50 points (13 G, 37 A) in 40 games. Yeah, that's some nice defensive production. Pouliot also sports a impressive plus-26 rating. He is the future of the Pens blueline and that future may be sooner than expected.
The Penguins play their last game before the Olympic break tonight against the New York Rangers. Letang, who was not selected to Hockey Canada, had a family vacation scheduled for the two-week hiatus. Instead of nice relaxation, it will be the first two weeks of his recovery. We all wish Kris a quick one.
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