Pascal Dupuis had been waiting for what felt like forever to join his teammates on the ice. And this week, he finally got the chance when informal skates began Monday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, which is the Pens’ new practice and training facility in Cranberry Township.
“Being on the ice with teammates and being allowed more than just myself and the trainer here in Pittsburgh, it’s (the first time) in basically 10 months,” Dupuis said. “It felt great to be out there. Obviously still got to find some stuff with my game, it’s August. But there’s plenty of time here and it feels good to be out there.”
Dupuis was diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung on Nov. 19 and underwent six months of treatment with blood thinners from then until May. He was allowed to skate during that time but not allowed to take contact, so he took the ice for solo sessions – many of which occurred early in the morning before the team would practice.
Dupuis, who missed the rest of the 2014-15 season after being diagnosed, was cleared to work out and take contact on June 11 while training in Laval, Quebec, where he and his family reside during the offseason.
While Dupuis has worked furiously to get back into shape, there’s only so much he could do on his own. So now that he’s back in Pittsburgh with the guys, Dupuis is focusing on utilizing his teammates as much as he can to get as much contact as possible while working on his timing as well.
“I know my conditioning’s going to be there, I know my legs are going to be there, my skating is going to be there,” Dupuis said. “It’s a matter of timing for me. It’s a matter of repetitions in everything, in every aspect of the game.
“Obviously I was told for six months to stay away from everybody, to stay away from boards, to stay away from pucks, not to get hit, not to get cut. Now that I’m allowed to, for me, I’m forcing myself to get back into battles and right in traffic, trying to get in people’s way as much as I can so it becomes second nature again.”
It’s been an incredibly difficult last couple of years for Dupuis, who has missed 109 of the last 125 games over the past two seasons after sitting out just four total in the previous two campaigns – starting when he suffered a torn ACL/MCL in Ottawa on Dec. 23, 2013 that sidelined him for eight months.
But despite everything that’s happened, Dupuis said he doesn’t think about any of those medical issues when he’s on the ice. He’s just focused on getting back to the player he knows he can be.
“Even walking around and doing anything on a daily basis, I don’t think about that stuff,” Dupuis said. “Obviously there’s people that think about it for me, including my wife. But no, not at all. I get out there and I’m the same guy, maybe that’s what’s going to give me a chance to come back at the same level of player that I was before.”