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Q&A: Shero on Vokoun

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins announced Saturday that goaltender Tomas Vokoun is out indefinitely after undergoing a procedure to dissolve a blood clot in his pelvis. Full details here.

The cliff notes are…

  • Vokoun noticed swelling in his thigh at Saturday’s morning practice
  • He was taken to the emergency room and diagnosed wMobileith a blood clot
  • A procedure was done to dissolve the blood clot
  • When Vokoun will return to the lineup isn’t yet known

“This just came about today when he left the ice after the second practice,” Penguins general manager Ray Shero said. “His leg was swelled up a bit. That was a red flag. (Head team physician) Dr. (Christopher) Harner came down. They got him to the hospital. The good news is everything was caught early.

“Tomas is done with the procedure and resting comfortably. We’ll see where the next few days brings us.”

Shero wouldn’t speculate on when Vokoun, 37, who also missed time with a blood clot in Nashville during the 2005-06 season, would be able to return to the lineup. He noted that the team should know more on how long Vokoun will be out in the next few days.

So in the immediate future, the Penguins will have Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff manning the pipes.

“If Tomas is out for a while Marc is going to have to step up,” Shero said. “Jeff Zatkoff will get an opportunity. He’ll play in one of the next two (preseason) games and we’ll see where he is.”

So what does this mean for the Penguins if Vokoun is out for an extended period of time?

Fleury’s pedigree is well known. If need be, he has the ability to carry a heavy workload. He has appeared in 50, 67, 62, 67, 65 and 67 games during single seasons in his career.

Fleury, 28, was the team’s No. 1 goalie heading into the season, so he was going to play in the majority of games regardless. Vokoun’s presence helped ease Fleury’s game demands. So if Vokoun is out for some time, look for Fleury to shoulder a big workload.

Behind Fleury is the 26-year-old Zatkoff. Though he has yet to make his NHL debut, Zatkoff has a plethora of experience at the American Hockey League level. He has a career record of 77-63-6, hitting the 20-win mark three times in four seasons with Manchester and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Zatkoff played his first season with WBS last year and was voted as the team MVP after posting 26-20 record with a 1.93 goals-against average, .920 save percentage and five shutouts.

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun underwent a procedure today to dissolve a blood clot in his pelvis and will be out indefinitely. General Manager Ray Shero addressed the media about Vokoun and his situation; here is the full transcript of his remarks.

On his comfort level with the goaltending situation with Vokoun out indefinitely:
Too early to tell to be honest. We just found out about this today and Tomas was undergoing the procedure during the game actually. Everything went well with that but indefinitely is indefinitely so we will have to wait and see. As we move along here we will have to make some determinations. Until we get together as a group and see where we are in the next little while, it’s a little too early to tell.

On if he could be out an extended period of time, especially if he has to be on blood thinners:
Too hard to speculate right now for me. But, most likely [an extended time period]. To play on blood thinners, I don’t think you can do that.

On if they had determined a cause or an underlying situation:
No, I don’t think so. This just came about today when he left the ice during the second practice so it was pretty quick. There was no signs or anything like that, he was going through the full practice, everything was fine. Then he left the ice and had some leg pain. They evaluated him quickly and his leg actually was swelled up a bit so that was kind of a red flag. So (head team physican) Dr. Harner came down, they got him over to the hospital and got the determination of what he had. That is the good news, everything was caught early for Tomas. I think over the next two or three days we will know more, see how this kind of shakes out a little bit and have some other meetings with the doctors. But as of right now, Tomas is done with the procedure and resting comfortably. So we’ll see what the next few days brings us.

On if this gives them any opportunity with long-term injured reserve and the cap right away, or if it doesn’t since they are still evaluating:
Well it depends how long a player is out for to be (considered for LTIR). To get into that, it’s only teams that are near the cap, which we would qualify for, obviously. But a player has to be out at least 10 games and/or 24 days. We have to have our roster in by next Monday and like every other team, be cap compliant. But again, we will see exactly what the next few days bring us and go from there.

On his opinion of Fleury’s camp so far and what he has seen from him mentally in terms of some of the things he asked him to do over the summer:
He’s been OK. He’s been a work in progress, I think and I think you see that for a number of our players. But certainly, if Tomas is going to be out for a little while, it’s going to be a situation where Marc is going to have to step up, and Jeff Zatkoff in this case will get an opportunity. He will probably play one of the next two games, I think, and see where he is. This is a franchise well before me that’s had a lot of injuries to star players. When I’ve been here, we’ve had injuries to star players and we’ve managed to survive. We went through this when Marc was for two months a few years ago. Ty Conklin came up and did a great job for us. So anyway, we will continue to evaluate. The news to me just happened today, so we will see exactly how we go and continue evaluating our goaltenders, we’ll evaluate our team and try to make the proper decisions.

On how scary and precarious a situation like that is, how satisfied he is with the speed with which it was diagnosed correctly, and how serious it was:
I was here at practice and I saw exactly what happened. I thought Tomas actually tweaked something, a hip or a groin or something, and skated to the side. Whether it was one of our trainers or one of our coaches asked him what was wrong, he mentioned his leg or something, and they said, ‘well, get off the ice,’ basically. So he got off the ice and our training staff evaluated him and when they saw the swelling, I believe, that’s when they called Dr. Harner, who came right down. He evaluated and quickly got Tomas up to the hospital. So from that standpoint I think everything went very smoothly and well. We are happy where things are right now. He is in good hands and had the procedure. So we will see exactly where it plays out over the next few days. But don’t have a lot of information and I think I try not to be too vague but I don’t want to be too specific, either, without knowing a lot of the things at this point.

On if this is potentially related to the blood clot Vokoun had in Nashville:
I don’t think they believe [they are related] at this point. That was in ‘05-06, at the end of that season. And they don’t believe that’s the case at this particular point, but again, until we get more information – I can be more specific over the next few days. But I asked that same question.

On if he was tested for genetic predisposition back then:
I don’t know. That was right at the end of the ’05-06 season. I want to say it was late in the season and I was there, and the next month I believe I left for Pittsburgh. But, he’s certainly come back from that. He played a lot of games the next year, maybe 40-50 games or something, and certainly has had no issues since then. He’s played lots of hockey. So knock on wood, that will continue to be the case. His well-being is our main concern, long-term and let alone short-term. The hockey team, we’re going to try to survive. We’re going to worry about Tomas and take care of him.

On if the blood clot stayed there in his pelvis or if it traveled:
I don’t believe that is the case. I think they were very happy with the way the procedure went this afternoon and that’ what I have been told. We have not talked to the vascular surgeon that did the catheter and all that stuff that dissolved the blood clot. So I have not had a chance to talk to him, this is all through our medical team so far.

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