LAS VEGAS (AP) — Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo returned to practice Saturday morning after a nine-game absence he took when his 4-year-old daughter became seriously ill.
Pietrangelo said he felt comfortable that his daughter, Evelyn, was progressing well enough that he could return in time for Saturday night’s home game against the New York Islanders.
He said Evelyn came down with the flu over Thanksgiving and then developed encephalitis, which created a lesion on her brain. That caused her to lose her motor skills, including not being able to open her eyes for the first five days.
He said they “tried a course of treatment” that a week later eliminated the brain lesion.
“I don’t want to say a surprise, but that progressed a lot quicker than I guess the original diagnosis,” Pietrangelo said. “They can’t really give you a timetable when your precious little girl is going to get better. It’s pretty scary for Mom and Dad, so I said I wouldn’t go back to work until I feel comfortable with where she is at home.”
Pietrangelo said his daughter returned home Wednesday from a Las Vegas hospital, and the next morning said she wanted to walk.
“We were thinking this could be months down the road,” Pietrangelo said. “(Friday), she just kept walking and walking in circles for a full day. God answered our prayers. It’s a miracle how much she’s come along in the last 48 hours.”
He said Evelyn still faces months of rehabilitation.
His return to the Knights comes as the club is dealing with a series of injuries to their blue line. Pietrangelo is second to Shea Theodore, who is out with a lower-body injury, among Vegas defenseman with 21 points. Theodore has 22 points.
“It’s good for Alex to get back into the group and the mix,” Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said. “You have to take care of your family first. They’re in a better place than they were a few weeks ago, so good for everybody involved and for him to get back out there.”