PITTSBURGH – On the road since Dec. 31, the Pittsburgh Penguins were scheduled to go home on Monday.
Plans have changed. On their way home from Sunday’s 4-1 win over the Coyotes in Arizona, the Penguins made a detour to Montreal to attend the funeral of Kris Letang’s father, Claude Fouquet.
“What I can tell you is that a lot of things came into play,” coach Mike Sullivan said. While we were away there were discussions with our leadership group and our players about the possibility of offering our support to ‘Tangier’ during this difficult time. It really comes from there. »
The Penguins were supposed to hold a full practice Tuesday, as is normally the case following a day off. Instead, they opted for an optional workout that was even pushed back 15 minutes.
The schedule changes were made to accommodate the trip to Montreal, Sullivan explained. the Fenway Sports Groupowner of the Penguins, was ready to accommodate them for any necessary changes before the game against the Vancouver Canucks at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, SNP, ATTSN-PT, ESPN+, SN NOW).
“We are very grateful to the Fenway Sports Group, who backed the players 100 percent, Sullivan said. We were able to deal with the few challenges that this posed. There were several, but we all felt the importance of supporting ‘Tangier’ in these difficult times. »
Letang is still in Montreal and hasn’t played since Dec. 28 due to a lower body injury. He hasn’t been with his teammates since practice Jan. 1 at Boston’s Fenway Park for the 2023 Winter Classic. He sat out the outdoor game the next day and left Boston. after learning of his father’s death.
“He’s such an important part of this team and this organization,” said the striker. Bryan Rust. It shows that there are more important things than hockey. The family tops the list. We all consider the family aspect.
“He’s a guy who’s been here a long time. Many of us have known him for a long time. I think it was important to show our support in these very difficult times. »
Letang has 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) in 29 games this season. He missed five games after suffering a stroke, his second since joining the NHL, on Nov. 28. The 35-year-old defender had four points (one goal, three assists) in eight games since returning to action on December 10.
The Penguins (20-13-6) had suffered six straight losses (0-4-2) before defeating the Coyotes on Sunday.
Marcus Petterssonwho recently played with Letang on the first defensive pair, said visiting his grieving teammate has been good for morale.
“I think it was very important for us and for him,” Pettersson said. We all know how much his father loved us. We spoke to him yesterday. He texted us saying it meant a lot to him and his whole family. It was important for us to show him that we support him and care about him.
“Going out there and offering our support, it really brought us together. It is a difficult time for him and his family. […] We are a family. I think we wanted to demonstrate that. It’s been tough times for him lately. He knows we are behind him. »
Letang won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh three times (2009, 2016, 2017). He ranks first in Penguins history in goals (146), assists (520), points (666) and games played (970).
“He is one of the veterans, a big brother and a mentor for many of the young people (of the team), underlined the Quebec defender Pierre-Olivier Joseph. He has been with this organization for a long time. I think that [nous rendre à Montréal] was the least we could do to repay him for all he did for us and still does. It was a decision we didn’t need to think about. »