Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang would be ‘available to play’ against the Buffalo Sabers on Saturday after recovering from a stroke, although Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan also said Letang was a game time decision.
Letang, 35, suffered a stroke in late November and has missed the Penguins’ final five games while recovering. He also suffered a previous stroke in 2014, both likely due to a birth defect resulting in a small hole in his heart.
In 21 games with the Penguins this season, Letang has one goal and 12 points averaging 23:54 per night. The six-foot right-handed defenseman returned to practice with the Penguins on Thursday and skated with the team again Saturday morning.
« I’m lucky enough to know my body well enough to recognize when something is wrong, » Letang said in November upon news of his latest stroke. “While it is difficult to publicly navigate this issue, I hope it can raise awareness. It’s important to me that my teammates, my family and the fans know that I’m okay. I’m optimistic that I’ll be back on the ice soon.
The Penguins originally selected Letang in the third round of the 2005 NHL Draft, 61 spots after beating Sidney Crosby to first overall. Letang made his Penguins debut in 2006-07 and went on to reach four Stanley Cup Finals with the team, winning in 2009, 2016 and 2017.
Letang signed a six-year contract extension in early July to remain a Penguin for what will likely be the rest of his NHL career. His contract carries a cap of $6.1 million and, for the first four years, full no-trade and no-move clauses.
The Penguins take on the Sabers at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday. The two teams have already met in Buffalo on Friday, with the Penguins winning the lively affair by a score of 4-3 on an overtime winner from Jeff Carter.
UPDATE: Letang is, indeed, in the Penguins’ lineup for Saturday’s game at Buffalo: