The mystery surrounding Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang‘s medical condition lifted Friday morning, as the team revealed that last year’s Norris Trophy finalist suffered a minor stroke recently.
The 26-year-old Letang has missed the previous four games due to what the Penguins were calling an illness, but his condition was diagnosed Saturday in Phoenix as the aftereffect of a stroke. According to the team, Letang experienced dizziness and nausea last Wednesday, Jan. 29, prior to the Penguins’ flight to Los Angeles.
On the advice of a team doctor, Letang was held out of last Thursday’s game against the Kings, a move which turned out to be astute. Letang’s symptoms match up with what’s called a transient ischemic attack, a.k.a. a “mini-stroke.” During a TIA, blood flow to the brain is temporarily disrupted by any of a number of factors.
After conducting several tests this week in Pittsburgh, doctors believe Letang’s stroke was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart – a birth defect that had gone undetected until now. Letang, who was not made available to the media Friday, is expected to miss at least six weeks while taking blood thinners to alleviate the condition.
Prior to going on vacation with his family during the upcoming Olympic break, Letang issued a statement through the team:
“I hope that by making my condition public at this time, I can help other people by encouraging them to seek medical help if they experience some of the symptoms associated with a stroke – regardless of their age or general health. It obviously was a shock to get the news but I’m optimistic that I can overcome this and get back on the ice.”
Letang will be reevaluated after a being monitored for about a month and a half. The Penguins said his condition is not believed to be life- or career-threatening.
2013-14 had already been a difficult, injury-marred season for Letang, as he’s missed 23 of 57 games and hasn’t been as effective at driving the play as usual. Despite that, he’s matched a career high in goals with 10 while averaging more than 24 minutes of ice time per game.
Tonight’s Game: Penguins (40-15-2, 82 points – 1st Metropolitan) vs. Rangers (31-24-3, 65 points – 2nd Metropolitan) at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center
Faceoff: 7 p.m. Eastern time
TV: Root Sports Pittsburgh (local), NHL Network (national)
Radio: 105.9 The X
Letang’s presence will be missed as the Penguins host the Rangers tonight to complete the pre-Olympic portion of their schedule. Marc-Andre Fleury, who has played in 47 contests so far, will once again be the starting goalie for Pittsburgh. He’ll have to get into 19 of the final 28 games to match his career high of 67 appearances, set three previous times (2006-07, 2009-10, 2011-12).
The Pens are on a 16-1 run at Consol, and they have also claimed 10 of their past 12 meetings with the Rangers. New York has won four of five and seven of 10 to pull one point ahead of Philadelphia for second place in the Metropolitan Division – although the Penguins still enjoy a 17-point lead for the top spot.