(CRAIG PATRICK PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT)
Mario Lemieux’s comeback is on ice, or rather off it – for now.
Lemieux returned to the ice Friday little over a week after being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. Initially, medication appeared to control the condition, but Lemieux experienced a recurrence of a rapid heartbeat in the third period of Friday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Buffalo.
The next day, Lemieux did not accompany the Penguins to Buffalo to wrap up the home-and-home series. He visited a doctor on Monday for a checkup and will not be allowed to have on-ice workouts for at least 10 days.
“He’s going to be on an off-ice conditioning program for the next 10 days to two weeks and then he will be re-evaluated after that,” Penguins General Manager Craig Patrick said. “They are going to try to get the right level of medication that he needs. Medicine is not an exact science, so you have to test things and try them. They are in that process now.
“We’ll get the right level of medication and right level of conditioning and he’ll be re-evaluated as to when he gets back on the ice.”
Lemieux’s return the ice on Friday was quick – perhaps too quick according to Patrick.
“The doctors have a lot of say in this, but my personal opinion is that he came back too soon this time. So, why rush it? Let’s do it the right way and make sure he’s ready when he comes back,” he said. “That’s the one thing we have to be careful of – him feeling the pressure and putting it on himself to get back on the ice. We have to calm him down from here on out. We have to make sure it’s right.”
The cause of Lemieux’s atrial fibrillation is not known at this time. However, No. 66 will be monitored closely during his off-ice workouts in the next couple weeks.
“They don’t know what is causing it,” Patrick said. “We have equipment now for when it does act up. There will be someone with him all the time when he’s training. If it does act up, they will put a monitor on him right away so they can maybe find out what’s causing it eventually. Right now, there’s no sure thing.”
Patrick is not taking Lemieux’s atrial fibrillation lightly.
“You hate to see anybody have a heart problem, especially when your heart is a big part of what you do. It’s tough to see someone go through that,” he said. “Imagine your heart acting up on you. It’d be pretty scary and frustrating. You’d worry about every step you take.”