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Penguins D Kris Letang returns to practice

NHL.com @NHL

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang returned to practice on Tuesday for the first time since suffering a concussion in late November.

Letang has been cleared to play by team doctors and is optimistic he can suit up sometime before the NHL All-Star game on Jan. 29. He is not expected to play on Tuesday night when the Penguins host Carolina.

Letang was playing arguably the best hockey of his career before taking an elbow to the head in a 4-3 win over the Canadiens on Nov. 26. He returned to the game and scored the overtime winner but woke up the next morning with a headache.

The Penguins have struggled since his absence, going 9-11-0 over the last 20 games to drop into eighth place in the NHL's Eastern Conference.

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