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Tomas Vokoun spent eight seasons as the No. 1 goaltender for the Nashville Predators, winning 161 games and helping the franchise to its first three playoff berths.
Now a member of the Florida Panthers, he appears to be rounding back into form just in time to face his former club.
Coming off his second shutout of the season, Vokoun seems likely to be in net to meet the Predators for just the second time as an opponent as Nashville visits Sunrise, Fla., on Tuesday.
The Predators selected Vokoun from Montreal during the expansion draft in 1998, and the goalie eventually evolved into their backbone. He made the All-Star team in 2003-04, when he won 34 games to guide Nashville to its first-ever postseason appearance.
But Vokoun was traded to the Panthers for three draft picks before the 2007-08 campaign. The left-handed Czech was an All-Star last season, but he got off to a slow start this fall, losing 10 of his first 14 appearances - and losing some playing time to backup Craig Anderson.
He's rebounded recently, going 2-0-1 with a 1.27 goals-against average in three starts spanning the Panthers' last four games. That includes a 23-save effort in Florida's 3-0 win over Colorado on Sunday.
Florida coach Peter DeBoer called Vokoun a "real rock" for the Panthers in the third period, when he made 12 of his saves.
"In things like this you can get frustrated and feel sorry or you can work on your game," Vokoun said of the goalie controversy in South Florida. "This is a team sport and you have to consider the team before yourself. If you don't play, you have to work harder to be better."
The Panthers (15-13-4) have been playing better recently, going 8-2-3 in the past month while allowing 2.15 goals per game over that span. They're 3-1-1 in their last five games despite scoring just 11 total goals.
Nashville (16-13-3) has also relied on defense to win games recently. The Predators are 5-3-1 in December, averaging 1.8 goals but allowing just 1.6 while shutting out four opponents.
One of those came on Saturday, when they beat the New York Islanders 1-0 behind Vernon Fiddler's goal and Pekka Rinne's 23 saves.
"We are not scoring a whole lot right now, but we are winning hockey games," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "We are going to have to win them close to the vest until some guys get hot."
Rinne, who made 26 saves in Nashville's 3-2 shootout win over Florida on Nov. 1, has made just 10 starts this season backing up Dan Ellis, but he's 7-1-0 with a 2.31 GAA while posting three shutouts in his last five starts.
Ellis has also played well of late, going 1-3-2 in his last six starts despite a 1.79 GAA and two shutouts in that stretch.
"Both goalies have played really well for us this year. That is what we need," forward Jason Arnott said. "We are struggling a little bit and they are keeping the puck out for us. We are finding ways to win and that is what we need to do."
Anderson was in net for the teams' meeting earlier this season, but Vokoun was in net for a 4-3 loss at Nashville on Oct. 27, 2007, in his first matchup with his former teammates.
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