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Vokoun returns to team practice

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Tomas Vokoun and Barry Trotz
Photo by Doug Brumley
Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun, seen here with head coach Barry Trotz, participated in his first full-team practice on Wednesday since suffering a hand injury in the Nov. 23 game.

Goaltender Tomas Vokoun participated in his first full-team practice Wednesday since injuring his left hand in Nashville's Nov. 23 game against Vancouver. Vokoun, who had surgery to repair thumb ligament damage on Nov. 27, faced shots for the first time on Tuesday--an off-day for all but a few players. Afterward, he had modifications made to the brace that he's temporarily using to support his hand. After Wednesday's practice, Vokoun reported progress.

"It's not 100 percent but as long as I can go to practice and the thumb holds, then you've got to be expecting some kind of restriction," Vokoun said. "I have a cast on my hand so sometimes it's hard to hold the stick, but no pain. That's the most important thing."

Predators head coach Barry Trotz explained that Vokoun will remain the team's No. 1 goaltender, despite the splendid play of Chris Mason during Vokoun's absence. Trotz has said Vokoun could be ready to return to game action as early as this weekend.

"I envision us rotating it for right now," Trotz said. "For [two] reasons. It's probably going to take Tomas some games to get back. At the same time, Chris is playing very well. We really need to continue to put up a good winning record while at the same time keeping both of them in the fray. We'll just play it day-by-day right now. I'll talk to the trainers and talk to Tomas and see how he felt after today and then we'll make a decision tomorrow after practice [regarding] when we envision [Vokoun] being back and playing.

Tomas Vokoun
Photo by Doug Brumley
Tomas Vokoun prepares to make a save during a drill in Wednesday's practice session.

"With all due respect, Tomas is the guy. And with all due respect, Tomas has missed some time. It's going to take him some time to get back. There's not a controversy of 'Are you going to [rotate] all year?' No. Tomas is going to be No. 1.

"If you're a top player like Tomas or [Paul] Kariya or [Steve] Sullivan and you get injured, you never lose your spot. But you do have to be conscious of the 20 other guys, that you're probably not going to be on top of your game when you come back so sometimes you ease yourself in a little bit. My plan right now is to rotate the first couple games and then go from there."

As for whether Vokoun will see a start as early as this weekend, the all-star goaltender was taking a wait-and-see approach. "I go day by day," Vokoun said. "I just practice and when I feel I'm good enough I certainly want to play. On the other hand, I have to be in the position to be able to play and be able to do the things I need to do to stop the puck."

RINNE UPDATE: Goaltender Pekka Rinne is also in town, working out on the ice with Predators goaltending coach Mitch Korn while rehabbing from September shoulder surgery.

"We brought him here so we were able to work both goalies--Tomas in his rehab and Pekka in his rehab--at the same time," Korn said Tuesday. "We're optimistic that by week's end, Pekka will be able to handle shots as Tomas is now. And he'll do that in Milwaukee [with Nashville's American Hockey League affiliate]. We're optimistic that within a few weeks--no pinpointed dates--that we will be able to get him in game situations."

LEIGHTON'S FUTURE: On Tuesday, Korn also addressed the future for current back-up Michael Leighton, who was acquired on waivers by Nashville shortly after Vokoun was injured. A decision regarding Leighton's status will be made once Vokoun returns to the lineup, Korn said.

"The options are to keep him and keep three goalies for a while; option No. 2 is to--with his agreement--send him to Milwaukee on conditioning; option No. 3 is to once again put him on waivers," Korn said. "If he gets put on waivers, then two things can occur. One is he gets picked up by another [NHL] team or two, he doesn't get picked up and then he goes to Milwaukee."


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