Pittsburgh Penguins Must Proceed Cautiously with Kris Letang After Defenseman Suffers Stroke

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Kris Letang, top defenseman for the Pittsburgh Penguins, hasn’t played since his team took on the Buffalo Sabres on January 27. In the days since, nobody seemed to know what the issue is, as it was essentially labeled a “mystery illness.”

Today, the official diagnosis came in, and it’s quite shocking. Letang has been sidelined due to suffering a stroke, and he’ll be out six weeks at the very least.

This isn’t exactly a common injury you hear about in the NHL, or most pro sports in general. Penguins GM Ray Shero claimed Letang was suffering from dizziness and nausea, and will be treated on blood thinners during his recovery.

If there’s any bright spot in Pittsburgh losing a Norris Trophy nominee, it’s the news that Letang’s condition is not believed to be life-threatening. However, for obvious reasons, the Penguins need to be incredibly careful in approaching the idea of Letang returning from action.

This isn’t exactly a pulled hamstring being dealt with. Any time the term “life-threatening” is involved in any way, it requires a lot of attention. Professional athletes are prideful people, especially hockey players.

Night after night, hockey players take pucks or sticks to the face. They suffer bruises and cuts that could cripple a normal human being. And yet, more often than not, said players essentially just walk it off. “He’s a hockey player,” most fans will say, and that’s typically all the reasoning needed.

But we’re in a whole new ballpark here. Letang is a big piece of the Penguins roster, but rushing him back from this is something the team needs to go at great lengths to avoid. At some point or another, Letang will claim he’s better, that he’s ready to lace up his skates again. I think we can all agree, though, that this is a diagnosis that will require more than just the player’s word. Letang will need to go through several tests just to ensure he’s OK to even practice again.

At the end of the day, as scary as it is to see someone suffer a stroke, it’s great to hear Letang is expected to fully recover. The Penguins just need to make sure said recovery is completely finished. This is one condition where 99% healed isn’t enough.

Casey Drottar is an NHL writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @CDrottar19 or “Like” him on Facebook

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