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Pens' Final Season Injury Updates

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

One of the factors in the Pens’ first-round playoff exit was their injury situation, particularly on defense. The Pens were missing Norris Trophy-contender Kris Letang, Olli Maatta and Christian Ehrhoff on the blue line and Pascal Dupuis at forward. Also, winger David Perron revealed to the media at Get-Away Day that he was dealing with a rib injury during the postseason.

Here’s an update on all of those players.

KRIS LETANG

The biggest loss for the Pens this postseason was not having Letang back on the blue line. It’s hard to replace a player that is arguably the best at his position in the entire league.

Letang suffered a concussion following a hit from Shane Doan on March 28 vs. Arizona. He missed the final seven games of the regular season and all five postseason contests.

“I’m better,” Letang told the media. “We have to go through the protocol. I’ve made strides. I skated a few times early in the morning. I’m feeling better and better.”

Letang was not going to play for the Pens at all this postseason, but he expects to make a full recovery and be ready for the start of next year’s training camp.

“I’m on my way to coming back,” he said. “I’m just going through the protocol and will be back on the ice.”

Though he has a history with concussions, Letang said he is not concerned about returning to the ice.

“I’m not really that scared,” he said.

On the play in which he was injured, Letang played a puck near his own goal line. After making a pass he was checked by Doan and hit his head/back off the end boards.

Though the hit occurred after he released the puck, Letang didn’t have any issue with Doan’s check.

“I have no problem with it,” said Letang, who added that Doan reached out to him after the game. “It was mainly the fact that my skate got caught. I was surprised he hit me, but I just got caught on the ice and my head banged off the wall.”

PASCAL DUPUIS

Another Pens player hoping to make a full recovery and return to the ice next season is Dupuis.

The 36-year-old forward was diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung, which traveled from his leg, and has been on blood thinners for the past five months.

“It’s been five months,” Dupuis said. “I have some more testing to do. I’m still on blood thinners right now. I’m looking ahead right now.”

Dupuis, who has resumed skating, has another month left on blood thinners and then a week-long waiting period following that before further testing.

“That’s coming up in a couple of weeks,” Dupuis said. “That has to wear off for 4-7 days before they can do some more testing and see if (there are) any blood disorders I have.”

Dupuis, who returned this season after missing half of the 2013-14 campaign with a torn ACL/MCL in his knee, remains cautiously optimistic about returning next year.

“If you asked me (before the season), I thought I was going to play again this year,” Dupuis said. “Will I say I’m going to play again next year? Yes, but it’s not up to me right now. I have more tests to be done. Hopefully, the results come back positive.”

Dupuis, a husband and father of four children, has been supported throughout the process by his family. No matter what the final outcome is, Dupuis and Pens’ medical staff will make sure to put his health as their No. 1 priority.

“If it’s safe, the doctors clear me I don’t see why my family and friends wouldn’t want me to be happy and back on the ice,” Dupuis said. “Anyone in any field that you’re in you worry about your life. In hockey we make the call of putting our bodies on the line, not our lives, but our bodies, blocking shots, taking hits and doing it night in and night out. I think I can come back and play again.”

Dupuis was actually hoping to return this postseason for the Pens, if they had made a long run.

“I still thought maybe, in the back of my head, that I had a chance to come back in the Stanley Cup Final,” he said.

Even though Dupuis’ final game of the season was Nov. 15, a day before scoring two goals in a 2-1 win at Toronto, he was still a key member of the team. Dupuis was a constant presence around the locker room and even gave input to management and the coaching staff.

“They wanted me around as much as I could. They actually listened to what I was bringing,” Dupuis said. “I thought my voice would bounce off the wall and not be listened to. But every time I came back with something different, they listened, paid attention and brought it to the team. It was good.”

OLLI MAATTA

It’s been an incredibly difficult year for Maatta. It all began with a summer-long rehab regimen for a surgically repaired shoulder injury. He missed the entire preseason, but was in the lineup for the Pens in Game 1 of the regular season.

In October came the horrible news. Maatta was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his neck that required surgery. He missed six games while recovering. Maatta returned to the lineup, only to have another shoulder injury require surgery.

All in all, Maatta missed 62 games on the year.

“I’ve never had a season like this and I hope I never will again,” he said. “It’s been tough. You always want to be out there. You want to be playing, you don’t want to be watching. I hope I have nothing else but good luck left in me.”

Maatta, who said he will be ready for the start of next season, is still rehabbing his recent shoulder injury, which required surgery on Jan. 14.

“I’m a couple weeks away from skating,” Maatta said. “I think it’s going well. We keep progressing. It’s feeling good, but I don’t want to rush it. Right now we have a lot of time. Lots of time to do it, so I’d rather do it right and be conservative a bit rather than rush it.”

Maatta suffered the injury after taking a hit. He tried to avoid surgery by rehabbing for a month. However, the shoulder didn’t progress and surgery was required.

“I had the same surgery I did last summer,” Maatta said. “I got hit, got caught the wrong way apparently and I hurt the same part, I think. That’s kind of unlucky, I guess.

“When I got hurt, I knew last year I played with it. I knew I could probably do it, but this year, I got hurt a little bit more and I tried to rehab, get stronger, just try to play with it but I couldn’t do it. And I think it’s kind of naïve for me too, to try to come back and not just think about the future.”

CHRISTIAN EHRHOFF

Ehrhoff missed 28 of the Pens’ final 34 regular-season contests and all of the postseason while dealing with a concussion and other injury issues.

“Still trying to get back from a concussion. It’s been kind of a long road back with the multiple concussions I had along the season,” Ehrhoff said. “I was getting better and then started skating last week with the team again and had some setbacks so had to shut it down again. I don’t really know where I am. Obviously now I have some more time to get it really done, but I wasn’t really close.”

Ehrhoff is an unrestricted free agent, so his future team is unknown.

“There’s definitely interest and I haven’t talked to my agent or Jim (Rutherford) yet,” Ehrhoff said. “So that’s something we’ll do the next couple days and see where we’re at.”

DAVID PERRON

Perron suffered a rib injury in the Pens’ final regular-season game in Buffalo that hindered his ability to shoot the puck in the postseason.

“In Buffalo when I fell on the boards there everyone thought it would be my head or my neck but it was actually my ribs,” he said. “I’m not sure what’s going on there, but I played through it in playoffs and it’s not something that obviously would stop me from playing, but we didn’t take too much of a look so far at it and I think it’s just going to heal naturally. But I was always going into corners trying to hit with the left side instead of the right side because it was pretty painful, but I played the game I thought I could in playoffs and just didn’t get the bounces.”

UPDATE: Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford gave a couple of additional injury updates on Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist in his season-ending media conference on Tuesday:

"Geno’s the type of guy that’s not going to use excuses. But he sprained his ankle and he came back sooner than most players would. He continued to play on an ankle that was not 100 percent. Hornqvist was the same. He had a broken rib. He came back and he played with it."

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