As Penguins training camp gets closer, players are slowly starting to return to Pittsburgh. Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff is one of the first guys back, and he’s excited to see his teammates and get the season started.
“I’ve seen Beau (Bennett), and I know ‘Scuds’ (Rob Scuderi) just got into town,” said Zatkoff, who got married this summer and honeymooned in San Francisco and Napa, Calif. “So this time of the year is always exciting, just to get back and start working again and see all the guys you haven’t seen for two or three months. You see them every day again, but this is always my favorite time of the year.”
Coming into last year’s training camp, Zatkoff had Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun ahead of him on the depth chart. But after Vokoun underwent a procedure to dissolve a blood clot in his pelvis, Zatkoff moved up to assume the role of backup netminder behind starter Fleury – and earned the right to stay.
After 4-plus seasons in the American Hockey League, 2013-14 was Zatkoff’s first in the NHL. He won 12 games backing up Fleury, posting a 10-game unbeaten streak (9-0-1) from Nov. 2 to Jan. 30 and winning seven straight games from Nov. 2 to Dec. 29. Zatkoff became the first Penguins rookie goalie to win six straight games since Johan Hedberg (March 25 to April 8, 2001).
Zatkoff had a strong rookie campaign, and was rewarded with a two-year, one-way deal during the season. But that being said, the 27-year-old knows nothing is guaranteed and that he will have to work hard to keep his spot in Pittsburgh this season – especially with the signing of Thomas Greiss during free agency.
“I think it’s going to be a similar situation to what I was in last year,” Zatkoff said. “I was fighting for a spot, and obviously with new management, new guys are gonna come in, so I’m just controlling what I can control. I can’t control who management brings in, but I can control how hard I work, how well I play and really that’s what’s up to me. I’m focused on that.”
Zatkoff said he has talked to general manager Jim Rutherford, but has yet to meet head coach Mike Johnston. Zatkoff said he is eager to meet the new bench boss and make an impression with him, the rest of the coaching staff and management.
“I think everyone starts out from square one,” Zatkoff said. “New coaching staff and new GM, you’re trying to leave a good first impression. Get out there, battle and turn some heads. So you just want to leave a good first impression. I think everyone’s in the same spot.”
As far as what Zatkoff would like to improve, the goalie said it’s all about picking up where he left off last year.
“My goal is to build on the season I had last year,” Zatkoff said. “I thought I was able to establish myself in the league last year. I’m really just looking to build on that and prove that I can be a No. 1 guy and handle a bigger work load and go from there.”