Hit sends Penguins' Letang to hospital
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was expected to remain hospitalized overnight after hitting his head during the team's 3-2 win Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes at Consol Energy Center.
The back of Letang's head struck the boards behind goaltender Thomas Greiss after Letang was hit by the Coyotes' Shane Doan during the second period.
Doan was not penalized, but many of the Penguins said they believed the hit was illegal.
“Doan was running around like an idiot today,” defenseman Ian Cole said.
Letang had launched the puck into the neutral zone while standing near the goal line to Greiss' right. Seeing Letang was releasing the puck, Doan swerved to make contact. The puck was in the neutral zone by the time Letang's head hit the boards.
“It looked late to me,” Cole said. “That said, the ref was looking at it, and he told us he didn't think it was late. I thought it was late. Not super late but late. It's an extremely awkward spot for a defenseman to be in.”
Doan, Arizona's captain, said Letang's reputation as a play-maker forces teams to play differently against him than other defensemen.
“It's awful,” Doan said. “When it happened, I could tell right away he went into the boards awkwardly. He's so good, you can't let him jump by you. I wanted to get a piece of him so he couldn't jump by me. We have to finish our checks on him. I didn't mean to hit him like that. You never want to see that, especially a guy of his caliber and everything he's been through the past few years.”
Letang has dealt with multiple concussions and endured a lifelong bout with migraine headaches. He also suffered a stroke Jan. 29, 2014.
He is having arguably his finest professional season. Letang, who turns 28 next month, has produced 11 goals and 54 points while logging the NHL's seventh-most minutes per game.
Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy frequently played against Doan while with the Anaheim Ducks.
“He's a guy that absolutely plays on the edge,” Lovejoy said. “He tries to impose his will by being a physical presence. You need to be aware of him at all times.”
Letang remained on the ice for a couple of minutes afterward and looked disoriented while teammates Steve Downie and Rob Scuderi helped him to the locker room.
“When I saw him laying on the ice, and when I saw him come off the ice, it didn't look good,” coach Mike Johnston said. “Knowing how injuries are, sometimes guys are fine 24 hours later.”