SUNRISE – The Panthers received good news Tuesday that goalie Tomas Vokoun suffered no internal or neurological damage when hit with a teammate’s stick Monday evening in Atlanta.
Vokoun, who left Monday’s game in the first period after getting hit accidentally by the stick of defenseman Keith Ballard, stopped at the Panthers training facility Tuesday at incredibl
e ICE and was “in great spirits other than a sore ear,” said GM Randy Sexton.
Coach Peter DeBoer said he doesn’t see Vokoun, who received stitches in his ear, being out very long.
“Whenever he can get a helmet (mask) on I think he’ll play. That's kind of (the talk) around the dressing room here and amongst our training staff,” DeBoer said. “It’s in an uncomfortable spot to put a goalie mask on. As soon as we can rig something up to get his helmet on around the stitches, he’ll be ready to play, whether that’s Wednesday, Thursday or the weekend, it won’t be long term.”
After Ilya Kovalchuk scored at 8:54 of the first period, a frustrated Ballard went to swing his stick at the goal post when it accidentally hit Vokoun on the side of the mask. Vokoun was taken off the ice on a stretcher but later flew home on the team plane.
“(Ballard) was visibly shaken and upset by the incident,” DeBoer said. “We found out between periods Tomas was going to be fine and (Ballard) gutted it out and played the rest of the night for us. Tomas got on the place and they had a chance to chat and sit together and, really, there was no hard feelings. Let’s be honest, this isn’t an unprecedented event.”
In fact, just last year in the World Championships, Tomas Surovy, upset about a goal, swung his stick and clipped goalie Jaroslav Halak on top of his mask.
“It’s unfortunate, we don’t condone it,” DeBoer added. “The main issue right now is getting the message out to kids watching the game last night that it was a heat-of-a-moment play. It’s not the way you want to handle your frustrations. I’m sure Keith Ballard will never do that again. It’s a fluke thing.”
When asked by media if Ballard would be disciplined, Sexton replied; “Keith feels bad enough about what happened.”
“It was an accident, there was no ill will intended,” he added. “Hockey is a passionate game. While we don’t condone those actions, clearly, guys who play with passion and compete and care sometimes make mistakes, and that’s what happened (Monday). It was an unfortunate accident.”
DeBoer added; “It’s not an issue in our dressing room among our players and we’re concentrating on Colorado (Wednesday).”
And that should be the only thing on the Panthers minds as they play host Wednesday to the Avalanche having earned only two points in their last five games. Since losing forward David Booth in Philadelphia to a concussion Oct. 24, the Panthers are 8-5-3. Since Cory Stillman joined Booth on the sidelines with a knee injury Nov. 20, the Panthers are 1-2-2. Kenndal McArdle, who injured his shoulder Saturday in Nashville, was listed Tuesday by DeBoer as “week to week.” Sexton said he will likely make roster moves either late Tuesday or Wednesday.
“The schedule doesn’t allow us to feel sorry for ourselves and sit back and take stock,” DeBoer said. “We just have to move forward.” Scott Clemmensen
, who replaced Vokoun in Atlanta, will meet the Avalanche for the first time in his career. Clemmensen is 3-3 this season with a 3.70 goals against. He stopped 28 of 30 shots Monday in Atlanta.
The Avalanche, who practiced Tuesday at BankAtlantic Center, opened a five-game road trip Monday with a 3-0 victory in Tampa. Craig Anderson pitched his third shutout of the season by making 33 saves and 18-year-old rookie Matt Duchene had two goals.
The Avalanche was the talk of the NHL after they got off to a 10-1-2 start. They’re since 5-7-3 but still second in the Northwest Division behind Calgary and fourth in the Western Conference.
Like the Panthers, the Avalanche have been hit with injuries. Milan Hejduk (knee) is questionable and David Jones is out through February with a torn ACL. Both are leading the Avalanche in goals with 10. ANDERSON RETURNS
Craig Anderson was back Tuesday at BankAtlantic Center as the Avalanche practiced for approximately 45 minutes. Anderson is 14-7-5 with a 2.57 goals against and .921 save percentage. He leads the league with 26 games started. He said he still talks to a “couple” Panthers and said his memories of South Florida are all good.
“The guys were great,” he said. “I played with a great bunch of guys. Obviously, in hockey, everything is changing and you never get to play with the same guys twice. But I definitely enjoyed the couple years we had with the same guys. They’re memories I’ll never forget.”