The Pittsburgh Penguins will receive a major boost to their lineup heading into the playoffs, as Kris Letang is set to return to action just 10 weeks after suffering a stroke.
The team’s general manager Ray Shero told reporters Wednesday that Letang was cleared by doctors and that it was the player’s choice when he’d return. “He’s been bugging me for a while to play,” Shero said.
Letang’s last game was Jan. 27. It’s unclear how much ice time he’ll receive Wednesday when the Penguins host the Detroit Red Wings in what could be a preview of a first-round playoff matchup.
“Hockey did not cause the stroke. Resting is not going to make him better,” Shero added.
The 26-year-old returned to practice three weeks ago after being taken off blood thinners. Letang said then that he was confident he’d return at some point this season.
Following Wednesday’s morning skate, Letang told reporters he is nervous about his return because he hasn’t played in a while, but isn’t concerned about his health. He also mentioned that his family is scared, but that they understand the situation and doctors talked to them to assure them of his safety.
It has been a rough few years for the Montreal native, who hasn’t played a full season since the 2010-11 campaign. He missed a good chunk of the 2012-13 season with a severed Achilles tendon and only played 51 games in 2011-12 due to a concussion and lower-body injuries.
In 34 appearances this season, Letang has 10 goals, 18 points and 14 penalty minutes.
Letang was seen skating on the second power-play unit Wednesday alongside Olli Maatta. Matt Niskanen and Paul Martin were manning the blue line on the top unit.
In other Penguins news, the team re-assigned forward Andrew Ebbett to their American Hockey League affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The 31-year-old has 37 points in 40 AHL games this season. Also, Tomas Vokoun was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on a conditioning stint. The Penguins netminder hasn’t played since last year’s playoff series against the Boston Bruins. The 37-year-old underwent a procedure to dissolve a blood clot in his pelvis more than six months ago and hasn’t played all season.