Kris Letang didn’t get back to Pittsburgh from Russia until around 4 a.m. this morning.
|Kris Letang during Friday's informal skate at Southpointe
The Penguins defenseman didn’t get much sleep after landing and had to be up early to take care of his infant son, Alexander. But his travels didn’t stop Letang from joining his Penguins teammates for their informal practice at Southpointe on Friday morning, where he looked great in drills during the roughly hour-long skate.
“We all missed it,” Letang said of NHL hockey. “I’m happy to be back in Pittsburgh and have the chance to play another season.”
Letang had a deal in place with SKA Saint Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League some time ago because of the work stoppage, and had spent a few days in Russia with his family to get acclimated with the team in case he decided to play there.
“The deal was done a long time ago,” he said. “It was just a question of timing. Closer to the end, even if the lockout was closer to an end, they asked me to come anyway to check out the facility and the way they were managing the team. It was a good experience.”
Letang spent the majority of these last nine months training in his native Montreal, except for about a week in October where he skated with his Penguins teammates at Southpointe before returning home to Quebec.
While there, Letang kept the same routine every day to stay ready. He skated with members of the Montreal Canadiens and other NHLers that were in town while working out off the ice with his usual trainer Jonathan Chaimberg.
Despite playing just 51 games last season due to injury, Letang had arguably the best season of his young career. The smooth-skating blueliner led the team’s defensemen in scoring with 10 goals (tying his career high) and 42 points, and led the Penguins with a career-high plus-21 rating.
He also led the team in ice time per game (24:50) and topped team’s defensemen in power-play minutes per game (4:05) while being named to his second NHL All-Star Game.
Letang believes the work he has done to stay fit will allow him to return to the elite level of play he’s proven he can sustain in this league, even with a compressed 48-game schedule.
“I think the way I trained this summer and this winter is going to help me a lot to try to keep in shape during that schedule,” he said.