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Penguins' Letang 'darn good' in return from stroke

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang noticed some areas he could improve in his first game back after having a stroke but was pleased with his performance Wednesday.

Letang finished with one assist and two shots in 22:30 of ice time in Pittsburgh's 4-3 shootout win against the Detroit Red Wings. He said he didn't feel any lingering effects of his stroke after the game.

"There are some things I felt good about, some things I have to get my timing back," Letang said. "Hockey is about timing and, I don't know, maybe it's going to take a week, maybe it's going to take two weeks."

Kris Letang
Defense - PIT
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 19
SOG: 102 | +/-: -7
He showcased his characteristic speed 9:17 into the third period by carrying the puck through the neutral zone and past Red Wings forward Luke Glendening before wristing a shot on goalie Jonas Gustavsson. Letang's shot forced a rebound that set up a go-ahead goal by forward Jussi Jokinen.

"At one point in the game, I looked at him and the guy didn't have a drop of sweat on him," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said of Letang. "There were a couple times, I think it was in the overtime, 4-on-4, you saw him backing up with the puck and he just kind of ran out of room with his execution and just kind of getting forechecked in the corner. It wasn't a play you would normally see from Kris.

"But to me, he's been out a long time, he's been out a couple months, and he looked pretty darn good out there."

Pittsburgh announced its starting lineup out of order in order to have Letang's name called last. The Consol Energy Center crowd gave him a standing ovation.

"If there's something we always say about Pittsburgh, it's how great the fans are. The ovation, it was great. I appreciate it," Letang said. "They were really behind me through that injury, understanding me taking my time and it was fun to see. It was a pretty emotional night."

Facing Detroit proved to be a physical test for Letang, which was what he wanted.

"First few shifts, I was a little nervous, but it went well. It's a tough team to play against," he said. "They like to play a 1-on-1 game and they keep the puck really well, so it was nice to get a battle under my belt."

Letang, who suffered the stroke Jan. 29, missed more than half of the regular season due to several injuries and has said he has been frustrated, after being named a Norris Trophy finalist last season. It made him enjoy his time on the ice Wednesday more than he would ordinarily.

"I had a lot of fun. It wasn't perfect structure wise for me, but I was just happy to be on the ice," Letang said. "Obviously, it's something I missed a lot. I was just glad to play with this bunch of guys. It's a pretty great atmosphere in this dressing room."

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