PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun will miss 3-6 months while undergoing treatment for blood clots.
The 37-year-old Vokoun hasn’t played since the blood clots were discovered last month. Vokoun said Wednesday he hadn’t thought about retirement yet and wants to see how the treatment plays out before making any kind of decision.
“I’m just in the beginning of this road,” Vokoun said. “Obviously all kinds of things cross your mind. Right now I’m not thinking about my career or, you know, playing hockey. I’m more worried about long-term health.”
This is the second time in Vokoun’s career he’s been sidelined by the condition. He missed extensive time while playing for Nashville in 2006 with a similar issue, but says the two injuries are not related. Vokoun will be able to train as usual but can’t play because of the blood-thinning medication he must take during his recovery.
Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero believes Vokoun is doing “great” both physically and mentally, and he is far less concerned with how Vokoun’s absence will affect the Stanley Cup-contending Penguins than about the player he’s known for the better part of a decade.
“It’s going to be whatever is best for him and his safety and the good thing for him is he can lead his active life, do the things he does, work out, play tennis or whatever,” Shero said. “We’ll see where it goes and hope for the best in the short term or the long term.”
Vokoun helped the Penguins reach the Eastern Conference finals last season. Taking over in the first round for struggling Marc-Andre Fleury, Vokoun went 6-5 with a 2.01 goals against average and a sterling .933 save percentage. Coach Dan Bylsma called Vokoun and Fleury the best tandem in the NHL when training camp opened last month.
Now Jeff Zatkoff will serve as Fleury’s primary backup when the Penguins open the season today against New Jersey. The 26-year-old Zatkoff went 26-20 with a 1.93 GAA for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL in 2012-13.
“We’re going to give Jeff that opportunity, which I think he deserves, and we’ll see how he goes,” Shero said.