PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis will miss at least six months after being diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung, the Penguins announced Wednesday.
Dupuis, 35, is on injectable blood thinners and will transition to an oral blood thinner later in his recovery, according to Penguins physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas. Dupuis and Vyas each said he is not sure if the ailment will end Dupuis' playing career.
"It's not a great situation to be in, but that's the card I've been dealt," Dupuis said. "Hockey's definitely second in my mind right now and [his family is] the most important part of my life right now. So, I just have to be healthy for them."
Vyas said Dupuis had a blood clot in his leg, and the clot moved to his lung. Dupuis is stable, and a battery of tests is pending, Vyas said. He also said it was "extremely important" the clot was identified when it was because it could have been life-threatening if left untreated.
Right Wing - PIT
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 11
SOG: 44 | +/-: 2
The clot, Dupuis' second in less than a year, was identified Monday, when he missed practice after complaining of discomfort in his chest. Dupuis was diagnosed with a blood clot in January, a few weeks after tearing his ACL against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 23.
"The way it felt, you probably try to deny [that it felt similar to what he experienced in January]," Dupuis said. "Probably did not want to feel that way. It felt the same way. The exact same way it did before, and I just didn't want to believe it."
He was on blood thinners for six months following that injury, missing the final 43 games of the Penguins' 2013-14 season. Dupuis returned to the lineup in Pittsburgh's 6-4 season-opening win against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 9.
He scored four points for the second time in his career, and the first time since March 25, 2004, while with the Minnesota Wild, with one goal and three assists against Anaheim.
This is the latest in a string of ailments Dupuis has faced. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher during the second period of a game against the Dallas Stars on Oct. 16 after getting hit by a puck in the back of his neck on a shot by Penguins defenseman Kris Letang.
Dupuis offered the Consol Energy Center crowd a thumbs-up that night and returned two days later to face the New York Islanders.
"It's been hard," Dupuis said. "The knee, the puck in the neck, this is all stuff you come back from. You're a hockey player. You're supposed to come back from that stuff. It's the risk you take as a hockey play to be on the ice. The other stuff, the clot, the lungs -- that has nothing to do with hockey.
"It's life-threatening, and you have to think of yourself and your loved ones before hockey comes to mind."
Dupuis' clot is similar to the ailment former Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun was diagnosed with in September 2013; Vokoun missed the entire 2013-14 season. But Vyas said Dupuis is free to participate in pretty much any activity while he's taking blood thinners except competing in a contact sport.
"On the ice, Pascal's versatility has helped the Penguins have a lot of success," Penguins associate general manager Jason Botterill said. "Off the ice, Pascal has become a leader with his involvement in the community and the passion that he brings to our locker room every day. I know myself and our teammates all enjoy seeing that infectious smile of his every morning.
"Moving forward, the biggest and most important thing is the well-being of Pascal Dupuis. He will have the entire support of the entire organization and medical staff moving forward."
Teammates Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Marc-Andre Fleury and Letang attended the press conference to offer support. The Penguins have had several health scares in the past year in addition to Dupuis' and Vokoun's cases.
Letang had a stroke in late January that sidelined him until April 9. Defenseman Olli Maatta underwent surgery about two weeks ago to remove a cancerous tumor from his thyroid before returning to Pittsburgh's lineup against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
Dupuis said he appreciated his teammates' presence and admitted it has been frustrating for the Penguins to go through several serious medical situations in a relatively short period.
"You can tell the support is great," Dupuis said. "The stuff that keeps happening, it's unbelievable. But as you can tell, Dr. Vyas is a great doctor, we have a great staff here onboard that if he doesn't send me to the doctor, I don't know where I am right now."
Dupuis played right wing alongside Crosby at center and Kunitz at left wing Nov. 14 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, reuniting Pittsburgh's top line utilized through the early portion of last season before his ACL tear. Dupuis scored each of the Penguins' two goals in their 2-1 win at Air Canada Centre.
He has been one of Pittsburgh's steadier players this season, also having success playing on the second line next to Malkin, but Kunitz said it is off the ice where he will be most missed.
"I think everybody remembers [Dupuis] going out and be able to go 100 miles an hour and being able to fit into all situations, but the locker room stuff is where you really miss him," Kunitz said. "A guy on the plane and hanging out at dinners, making fun of situations when we're not feeling as confident as we need to as a group. That's the friendship part of what [Dupuis] brings to the team."
Crosby said he's focused on Dupuis' health more than the impact his loss could have on the Penguins.
"You think about him as a dad and as a husband. That's not easy to go through," Crosby said. "He's strong. I'm sure he'll find a way to get through it. His teammates are here for him, but it's not easy. It's not easy seeing that, for sure."
Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Dupuis cannot be replaced, but he expects others to play at a higher level in his absence.
"Pascal, as we know, you can look at his stats and see what he's done for this organization," Johnston said. "But in the room … he's an inspirational leader, he's a great energy guy every day. We’re going to need other players, as it happens, to step up.
"To step up into his role as a player, to step up into his role as a leader."