Kris Letang is back.
Head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed that the Penguins defenseman will return to the lineup Thursday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden after missing the last 21 games with a broken nose and concussion sustained Nov. 26 vs. Montreal.
“Excitement,” Letang said when asked how he feels about returning after such a
lengthy absence. “When you’ve been out of the lineup for a long time like this, you just want to get back out there with your teammates and be part of the team.”
While Bylsma will be monitoring Letang’s minutes, he said the plan is to utilize him both in a top-four role and on the power play.
“It certainly is a situation where you’re not looking to get him too many minutes, but I still think he’s going to be used in a top-four role against their good players and on the power play,” Bylsma said. “So he’s going to play a fair amount of minutes in tonight’s game.”
That’s fine with Letang, who’s been pushing himself hard ever since he was cleared to skate in order to do just that.
“I stayed home during the trip because I was conditioning, practicing everyday, working out everyday,” said Letang, who averaged a team-leading 26:10 minutes per game before his injury. “I felt pretty good out there.”
Since returning to practice with the team on Tuesday, Letang has mostly been skating with usual defense partner Brooks Orpik – who cautioned that it will take some time for Letang to regain top form.
“He’s got to get his timing back. You can’t just expect him to get back to where he was when he got hurt,” Orpik said. “But I know he worked hard to get back and he did a lot of conditioning to try to get as close as he can back to normal. The six guys that have been playing have been playing really well, but any time you get a guy like him back – he’s a tough guy to replace.”
Adjusting to the speed and timing of the game is always a concern with players returning from injuries. But with players like Letang who are returning from concussions, getting reacclimated with the physicality of the sport is also pertinent.
But Letang was aware of that, and the 24-year-old prepared accordingly during his rehabilitation period so that he will have no hesitation in dishing or receiving hits.
“Obviously I want to be careful, but my game is to go all out,” he said. “I’m physical, I’m up in the play. I’m trying to bring a different aspect to the game. I was expecting to think about what was going to happen when I got back, so I really worked on the mental side of the game and making sure that when I step in, I’m not afraid to get hit.”
Overall, the guys are just pumped to have the All-Star defenseman back in the lineup.
“Everybody on our team is excited because he’s a great player and we miss him,” defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. “It’s going to be a big boost for everybody and a big help. We are looking forward to having him back in the lineup for sure.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins Official website
- Post ASG: Kris Letang (1/29/12) Kris Letang talks ...
- More All Star Kris Ottawa January 2012
- All Star Kris
- Post-Skills Competition: Letang (1/28/12) Kris Let...
- Letang All Star 2012 in Ottawa January 2012
- ASG: Kris Letang (1/26/12) Kris Letang talks to th...
- ASG Media Day: Kris Letang (1/27/12)
- In the Room Episode 3 I spy Kris Letang in th...
- NHL 2012 All Star Draft Predictions
- Letang's return has been a welcome one for streaki...
- UPMC Spotlight: Kris Letang (1/25/12)
- Letang 2012 All Star
- Letang Honored to be Named an All-Star
- Kris Letang's goal from the Pens/Caps game 1-22-12...
- Nemacolin Big 5 (1/22/12) This Nemacolin Big 5 vid...
- Kris back in action on 1-19-12 against the New Yor...
- Post Game: Kris Letang (1/19/12)
- 1/19/2012 - Kris Letang Pregame Interview with Dan...
- Game Day: Kris Letang (1/19/12)
- Letang Will Play Tonight vs. NYR
- Recent Pictures of Kris January 17 and 18 of 2012
- Link with Letang interview and other links about K...
- Transcript of Letang interview with the media toda...
- Letang is BACK!!!!!!!!!! 1-17-12
- Letang Returns to Practice 1-17-12
- Another article just saying Kris will be coming ba...
- Letang coming back soon YAY
- Thank you PensInsideScoop on twitter for this grea...
- Old screencap I found online. I did not take it j...
- Update on Kris
- Kris is Skating
- Kris Update thanks to twitter
- New Blog Article about Kris Letang from PensBlog
- Kris is practice on the ice again YAY :)
- Kris is practicing on the ice again YAY :)
- Update on Kris 1-6-12
- Latest update on Kris from Pens twitter
- Thanks to Twitter this is the lastest update on Kr...
- ▼ January (38)
- ► 2011 (557)
- ► 2010 (225)