PITTSBURGH — Less than three months after a stroke put his season in jeopardy, Kris Letang will go back to work for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The defenseman makes his return tonight when the Penguins host the Detroit Red Wings. The 26-year-old hasn’t played since Jan. 27. Two days later, he suffered a stroke after feeling dizzy and nauseous.
Letang was cleared by doctors several weeks ago and convinced general manager Ray Shero he was OK during a series of conversations while traveling with the team on a road trip last week.
“I’m happy, obviously,” Letang said today after practice. “I think it was a decision between me and him. It’s a relief and I’m really happy to have a chance to play.”
Though doctors have not pinpointed the cause of the stroke, a small hole in Letang’s heart may have been a factor. Letang’s been taken off blood-thinner medication, but his condition will be monitored.
Letang and Shero are convinced the 2013 Norris Trophy finalist is not putting himself at greater risk by playing.
“To return to play hockey, he’s at no further risk to suffer a stroke than he would be going to the grocery store,” Shero said.
Shero joked that Letang has “been bugging me for awhile” about a possible comeback. While Letang has been practicing since March 17, he expects to be “nervous” when he pulls on his No. 56 sweater. Then again, it’s a moment he’s been anticipating since he received the stunning diagnosis.