Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Letang Shows Penguins Glimpses of Impact He Could Provide in Return from Stroke

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Letang Shows Penguins Glimpses of Impact He Could Provide in Return from Stroke

Article excerpt

Letang shows Penguins glimpses of impact

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PITTSBURGH, Pa. - It will take into next week and beyond for the Pittsburgh Penguins to know exactly what impact defenceman Kris Letang will be able to make two months after suffering a stroke.

On Wednesday night, in his first game since January, Letang showed glimpses of what he brings back to the Penguins, most notably creating open ice in the neutral zone and generating the rebound that led a goal by Jussi Jokinen.

"You couldn't tell he has missed two and a half months," Jokinen said.

After missing 26 games following a Jan. 29 stroke, Letang could. After helping beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 in a shootout, the 26-year-old was able to breathe and reflect on what he called a very emotional day.

"I felt pretty good. I had a lot of fun," Letang said. "It was not fun structure-wise to me, but just glad and happy to be on the ice. Honestly, it's something that I missed a lot and I was just glad to play with this bunch of guys."

Letang hardly got eased back in Wednesday night, playing 22 minutes 30 seconds. That's on the low end of his season totals, but it's still quite impressive for anyone coming back from something as serious as a stroke.

Defence partner Rob Scuderi said Letang makes things look easy. Coach Dan Bylsma agreed.

"At one point in the game I looked at him and he didn't have a drop of sweat on him," Bylsma said. "He's been out a couple months and he looked pretty darn good out there defending, defending against some good players, playing hard and made some good plays that made a difference in the game."

Letang created Jokinen's goal by carrying the puck over the red-line and shooting it on Detroit goaltender Jonas Gustavsson. It was a harmless shot that became a goal when Jokinen saw it on the ice behind Gustavsson and poked it in.

That was the tangible difference the Montreal native made in his first game back. Of course it was not as strong a game as he would have liked, and getting back to a consistent level could take time.

"There was some things that I felt good about, some things I have to get my timing back," Letang said. "Hockey is a lot about timing, and I don't know -- maybe it's going to take a week, maybe it's going to take two weeks. …

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