Letang returns to workouts

PITTSBURGH – Kris Letang darted down the Consol Energy Center ice, the defenseman’s black hair flicking out from underneath his helmet.

Everything looked in place. The speed. The agility. The slick stickwork.

Yet for as polished as Letang appeared during his first workout alongside his teammates in nearly two months on Monday, the 26-year-old remains uncertain when he’ll be able to pull his No. 58 sweater over his head and suit up in an actual game.

Consider it part of the fallout from the scariest moment of Letang’s life.

Seven weeks after a stroke blindsided him, Letang remains optimistic he will play again this season but too cautious to throw out a date.

“I was on the ice today because I want to return,” Letang said. “I’ll be able to play again. I don’t know when.”

Neither does his coach. Dan Bylsma pointed out that unlike defenseman Paul Martin – who remains sidelined with a right hand problem – concrete signs of progress for Letang are tougher to glean. Throwing an arbitrary timeline out there wouldn’t do any good because things can change in an instant.

“There’s no date to be determined for Kris,” Bylsma said. “Right now he’s back in a full practice. That’s a good thing.”

One the Penguins hope will send a bit of a jolt through a constantly churning lineup that has stagnated in Letang’s absence.

The Penguins are just 7-5-2 since Letang fell ill on Jan. 28 and while their spot atop the Metropolitan Division remains secure, they have ceded the top spot in the Eastern Conference to the Boston Bruins.

The slide includes a home-and-home sweep by Philadelphia over the weekend in which Pittsburgh was dominated for the first four periods before salvaging some dignity in the final 40 minutes of a 4-3 loss on Sunday.

Not exactly the best way to build momentum heading into the last month of an interminable regular season.

Though the Penguins have lost an NHL-high 413 man games to injury this season, they are trying to avoid excuses.

They steamrolled through the first four months of the season before falling since Letang’s third trip to the injured list.

Letang wasn’t the only player back on the ice Monday.

Forward James Neal (concussion) practiced, as did wingers Chris Kunitz (lower body) and Beau Bennett (wrist).