NEW YORK – Tomas Vokoun joined the Capitals last season as the goaltender that would shore up the position, one that had been a weakness for years in Washington, and transform the club from playoff disappointments into Stanley Cup champions.
Instead, Vokoun battled injury and inconsistency and eventually found himself watching from afar with a lower-body injury as the Capitals lost in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the New York Rangers in seven games.
The 36-year-old will get a crack at the Rangers on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden in his first start with the Pittsburgh Penguins after signing a two-year deal to serve as Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup.
“I think when we talk about our goaltenders and adding a Tomas Vokoun, this is one of the reasons why right here in back-to-back situations,” said coach Dan Bylsma, whose team won its season opener 2-1 in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. “He’s got a big game against the Rangers. This is a team that we think is a great team and a big game for us and Tomas is stepping right in Game 2 to backstop us.”
Vokoun’s last start came nearly 10 months ago when he allowed three goals on 28 shots in a 3-2 loss to the Jets in Winnipeg on March 16, 2012.
“It’s a good chance to get in there after a long time,” Vokoun said. “Hopefully I can help the team win. I’m very excited. That’s why we do all the training and everything else, to be able to play the game. Obviously it’s my first time in the uniform so it’s always exciting.”
Vokoun faced the Rangers once last year and played very well. He stopped 31 of 32 shots in a 4-1 win for the Capitals at Verizon Center.
“I’m happy for a new teammate getting his first chance,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “It’s always a great atmosphere here and we’re excited for him to get out there. We want to make sure we give him as much help as we can.”
Here are the lines and defense pairings that were on display during the Penguins’ morning practice:
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Eric Tangradi – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Matt Cooke – Brandon Sutter – Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams
Brooks Orpik – Paul Martin
Kris Letang – Matt Niskanen
Simon Despres – Deryk Engelland
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo