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had a breakout campaign in 2010-11, finishing with a career-high 50 points while being voted to the NHL All-Star Team and garnering buzz as a Norris Trophy candidate.
But his focus entering this season has nothing to do with compiling more accolades.
While he’s happy with his performance last season, saying he improved his game “both offensively and defensively,” Letang’s main goal heading into the fall is to maintain the reliability and durability he displayed last year.
Letang, 24, finished the 2010-11 campaign as one of just two Penguins to skate in all 82 games (a career first for him) while logging a team-best 24:02 minutes per game.
“I’m going to try to play in all of the games again,” he said. “I would love to be able to maintain the same intensity and same level of play I had last year.”
To do that, Letang decided to vary his offseason routine after his longtime trainer, Pierre Allard, became the Montreal Canadiens’ strength and conditioning coach last season.
While Letang still works with Allard during his on-ice sessions four times a week, the Penguins blueliner decided to enlist the services of Jonathan Chaimberg, a 32-year-old former wrestler who’s now a highly respected strength coach based out of Quebec, off the ice.RELATED: Season Review: Kris Letang >>
After taking a month off after the season ended to give his body some much-needed rest, Letang now trains six days a week at Adrenaline Performance Center, Chaimberg’s facility in Montreal.
Chaimberg’s personal experience as a wrestler and his work with mixed martial arts athletes means he brings a different perspective to fitness than what Letang is used to, but the young defenseman is thoroughly pleased with the results.
“I chose to work with Jonathan because I saw the work he did with a few other players and other types of athletes,” Letang said. “It was another kind of training than I’m used to. So I picked him and he’s done really well.”
Chaimberg’s focus on conditioning to ensure Letang’s body doesn’t tire after playing long shifts or long periods of time is invaluable to him in his expanded role as the Penguins’ No. 1 defenseman.
So while Letang hasn’t added any pounds onto his 6-foot, 201-pound frame, he feels he’s grown stronger and has increased his aerobic threshold through his workouts.
Moving forward, Letang wants to pair the endurance he’s built with his quickness and agility, which he’s also been focusing on in his workouts.
“Before I focused more on being powerful and building strength,” Letang said. “To play the way I play, I think it was important to work on my conditioning because I’m a guy who has a good first stride and strong skating. So I want to be able to skate my whole shift. I want to be able to have quick feet, to be able to jump in the play and never get tired after a 30-second shift.”
Letang, who lives in downtown Montreal, will be back in Pittsburgh shortly before training camp commences in September. He’s looking forward to reuniting with defense partner Brooks Orpik
“I think we built a good chemistry together,” Letang said. “He’s a guy that you can rely on at any time over the course of a game. He doesn’t take any big risks. He’s always in the right spot. He’s easy to read for a player like me that likes to move and skate.”
Overall, Letang is excited to come into training camp in incredible shape and is ready to build off what he accomplished last year.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “The core players are still the same. We lost some key guys, but we’ve added some great players too. Honestly, I’m really looking forward to the season.”
And while Letang’s varied approach to offseason training is paying dividends, it just doesn’t compare to what he loves most.
“I can’t wait to be on the ice again,” he said.
WATCH: KRIS LETANG SUMMER WORKOUT, PT. II
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