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Healthy Dupuis, Letang sure to give Penguins lift

by Arpon Basu /

TERREBONNE, Quebec -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have had an offseason packed with roster changes, but the best personnel news might be the return to full health for two of their longest tenured players.

Forward Pascal Dupuis and defenseman Kris Letang each said Tuesday he is 100 percent and eager for training camp to start.

Dupuis missed the final 66 games last season with a blood clot in his lung, and Letang missed the final seven games and the five-game loss to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round with a concussion.

"I'm in great shape," Letang said at a charity golf tournament hosted by Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien. "I got on the ice last week, so I'm following the same program I follow every summer. There was no delay in that sense.

Dupuis will play on blood thinner

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis, who missed most of last season because of a blood clot, will attempt to play this season using the blood thinner Lovenox.

"I don't have any blood disorder, I don't have anything in my blood that would make me more prone to clots except that one vein," Dupuis said. "That's why I'll be taking that precaution and be on that protocol."

Dupuis administers the drug himself with injections. He took Lovenox this summer on a trial basis so he could become accustomed to how works.

"I told [the doctors] I wanted to try whatever I'm going to do during the season for the travel, for the dehydration part of it," he said. "So I told them I was going to do it, and I kind of became an expert at doing it. It's like second nature."

The risk of playing on blood thinners is that if Dupuis were to get cut, he would bleed excessively. The advantage with Lovenox, opposed to Coumadin, which Dupuis took after he was diagnosed, is that it remains in the system for a short period, about 12 hours.

Dupuis said he will have to inject himself after every game and plan when he will take the injection according to the Penguins schedule. An advantage, Dupuis said, is that Lovenox wears off quicker if you are very active, so if he injects himself after a game he should be fine to take a morning skate the next day.

"Let's say away from the rink I cut myself; well, I just injected myself with blood thinners so I will bleed," he said. "But during the game, nothing. I'll be the same as the guy next to me."

-- Arpon Basu

"I'd say it's been one of my best summers in terms of training and how I feel."

The Penguins were 12-3-1 when Dupuis revealed that something was wrong after playing five games while experiencing discomfort because of the blood clot. Pittsburgh went 31-24-11 without Dupuis.

After Letang was injured, the Penguins finished 2-4-1 and went 1-4 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

There were a number of other injuries, illnesses and general bad luck that contributed to a disappointing season, but having two veterans back should help a revamped roster that added forward Phil Kessel in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Pittsburgh also acquired forward Nick Bonino in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks, and signed veteran centers Eric Fehr and Matt Cullen as free agents.

"We had a lot of injuries last year up front," Letang said. "When you lose someone like Pascal Dupuis, he's tough to replace. We've often been blamed for lacking depth, but I think we have a very deep team now up front and we have good balance in the style of players we have. We have scorers, workers, energy guys. I think we've improved enormously."

Dupuis said he is as ready as he's ever been to get back on the ice.

"Physically I'm feeling great," he said. "I would have said I feel where I should be normally in a normal summer, but I feel like I'm ahead already. I've been training for 10 months straight … and I didn't get the wear and tear of a whole season. My knee (which he injured in December 2013) is 100 percent right now. I'm well-rested.

"A 36-year-old who's well-rested, I don't how that will do, but that's how I feel."

Of the 18 Penguins skaters in uniform for Dupuis' last game, against the Rangers on Nov. 15, 2014, nine are no longer on the team.

"I'll be the same guy, and I think it's going to be even more important that I be there ready to go because it's a new team, a new group," Dupuis said. "I want to be one of those leaders that is there for that new group and be part of that leadership group that will bring this team to the next level."

Letang has been close with Dupuis for as long as they've been teammates, and he's convinced his friend will be able to pick up where he left off (31 points in 55 games over the past two seasons).

"Pascal is a passionate guy and he has something to prove," Letang said. "He has a lot of honor, and I have no doubt he'll come back strong."

Letang sustained a concussion when he fell heavily into the boards following a hit from Shane Doan of the Arizona Coyotes on March 28. Letang, who had 54 points in 69 games last season, said he has no inhibitions about his return and that injuries are a part of the game that are sometimes unavoidable.

"Every time you get on the ice, it's dangerous," Letang said. "You can get a concussion at any time, it can be from a check or you can just fall awkwardly like I did. When we decided to be hockey players when we were 16 with contact, you accepted the risk of getting a concussion.

"It worries the people close to me more than it worries me."

Dupuis said he has the support of his wife Carole-Lyne and their four children to come back and play, though he admits he'll be on a shorter leash after taking the risk he did last season.

"I have a great wife that takes my side even though she's worried," Dupuis said. "She sees how I'm feeling right now. But she knows me enough to be worried too.

"I kind of shot myself in the foot on that one."

A big source of motivation for Dupuis is for his children to be proud of him for doing it, for feeling passionate about something and working hard to make it happen.

"I get that part too, but I want them to see it (pay off)," he said. "I want them to enjoy a nice playoff run, a nice Cup run with me."

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