Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun will be re-assigned on a conditioning stint to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League starting Wednesday, coach Dan Bylsma announced following Tuesday’s practice at Southpointe.
Vokoun, 37, has not played this season after undergoing surgery to dissolve a blood clot on Sept. 21. He was on blood thinners immediately following his surgery.
Vokoun was taken off the blood thinners in mid-January and skated for the first time in four months on Jan. 22. Vokoun began taking shots for the first time Jan. 28, returned to full team practice on Feb. 19 and has been skating with the teamever since.
“In his effort to get back, he has increased his intensity level in practice,” Bylsma said. “He does have some body soreness, he does have some things he’s dealing with. But at this point in time, we have to see if he can do it. He’ll get that opportunity in Wilkes-Barre this weekend.”
WBS’ schedule this weekend is as follows: Friday, April 11 at Syracuse; Saturday, April 12 vs. Binghamton; and Sunday, April 13 vs. Toronto. Bylsma did not specify which game(s) Vokoun will play.
Vokoun played 20 regular season games for the Penguins last season, going 13-4 with a 2.45 goals-against average. He appeared in 11 playoff games and was 6-5 with a 2.10 GAA.
* Bylsma said that center Evgeni Malkin, who has missed the lasteight games with a foot injury, saw the doctor on Monday and has progressed to the point of skating lightly both that day and today.
Bylsma said that there is no timetable for a return at this point in time. The team announced on March 25 that Malkin would miss 2-3 weeks after suffering the injury on his first shift in the Penguins’ 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues on March 23.
* Bylsma said that forward Joe Vitale, who has missed the last 10 games with a mid-body injury, skated with Malkin this morning.
“(Vitale) is on the ice right now without the team, just with Geno,” Bylsma said. “Kind of trying to see what’s best in terms of rest and getting back and playing for him and his injury. Not currently practicing with the team.”
* Forwards Marcel Goc (foot) and Chris Conner (foot) remain out.
* All of the players who missed Sunday’s game in Colorado due to injury – Sidney Crosby (upper body), Chris Kunitz (lower body), Brooks Orpik (lower body), and Olli Maatta (upper body – missed the last 2 games) all practiced on Tuesday.
Bylsma said they are all day-to-day and added “we saw them all practice today, so that was good.”
Crosby said after practice that he felt good, adding “Just kind of going day-to-day, but definitely feel good.”
Crosby was on pace to play 82 games for the first time in his career before sitting out Sunday. He said he wasn’t frustrated or disappointed that he wasn’t able to reach that mark, joking that if you count the Olympics, he’s already played that many.
“I’d love to, but I think I’ve played more than 82 at this point, if you’re counting every one,” he smiled. “So I’m OK with that. I think what’s most importantl is that you feel good at the right time and that’s playoffs, so just have to be smart.”
* Finally, Bylsma said there is no update at this point in time on defenseman Kris Letang, who has missed the last 26 games since suffering a stroke on Jan. 29. Letang was on blood thinners for six weeks and was able to return to full team practice the day after that six-week period was up (March 17). He has been skating with the team ever since.
* With Crosby and other injured players returning to practice, here is what lines looked like...
Kunitz - Crosby - Bennett Gibbons - Jokinen - Neal Glass - Sutter - Stempniak Pyatt - Adams - Payerl (Stempniak did double duty on a fifth line with Megna and Ebbett).
Maatta - Niskanen Letang - Engelland Scuderi - Bortuzzo Orpik - Martin Despres rotated with the defensemen.