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Stroke sidelines Pittsburgh Penguins' All-Star defenseman Kris Letang

Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh PenguinsKris Letang had complained of dizziness and nausea before his stroke was diagnosed. (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

By Allan Muir

The Penguins have finally revealed the nature of the ailment that has sidelined Kris Letang for the past week ... and it's scary serious.

The All-Star defenseman will miss at least the next six weeks after suffering a stroke. Letang will be treated with blood thinners and, at this point, it’s believed that his career is in jeopardy.

"This can happen to anybody," said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma. "[Letang] is a pro athlete and one of the finest-tuned athletes we have. It's scary."

After Letang complained of dizziness and nausea, doctors conducting tests discovered a small hole in the wall of his heart. The hole is present in all children at birth, but it typically closes up and seals over time. It didn’t in Letang’s case, and it's possible that the hole is what led to his stroke.

“Kris had one brief episode of dizziness and nausea last week,” Penguins GM Ray Shero said. “We held him out of the Los Angeles game [last] Thursday night, and when he continued to feel ill, tests conducted in Phoenix on Saturday gave us the first indication of his condition. Further testing then was conducted when he returned to Pittsburgh, and he continued to undergo a battery of tests here this week.

“The most important thing right now, of course, is Kris’ health,” Shero added. “We’re not thinking about hockey right now. We want to make sure he gets the best possible care and gets better. After six weeks of treatment, doctors will re-evaluate Kris.”

“It obviously was a shock to get the news but I’m optimistic that I can overcome this and get back on the ice,” Letang said in a team statement.

Letang will go on vacation with his family over the Olympic break and could resume skating when the rest of the team returns to the ice near the end of month. Despite the timeline offered by the team, it is uncertain when he will be able to return to game action.

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