Tomas Vokoun hasn’t played a single regular-season game this season, although he’s been practicing with the Pittsburgh Penguins since February.
The 37-year-old goalie had a scary recurrence of a chronic blood clot issue in September, and he’s been trying to work his way back since. With three games to go before the playoffs, Vokoun’s progress took a step in the right direction Tuesday when he was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL for a rehab stint.
The AHL Penguins have three games this upcoming weekend, giving Vokoun one or two opportunities to face live bullets for the first time since the preseason. Vokoun is in the second year of a two-year contract with Pittsburgh, but he has indicated he doesn’t want to end his career on the disabled list.
Rookie Jeff Zatkoff has proven to be a reliable backup for Marc-Andre Fleury, so there isn’t a ton of urgency to get Vokoun ready before next week’s playoffs. Nevertheless, as last spring demonstrated, it doesn’t hurt to have a veteran like Vokoun available should Fleury falter or get hurt.
Vokoun memorably took over for a staggering Fleury in last year’s first-round series against the Islanders. With the Czech Republic native in net, the Penguins advanced past New York and Ottawa to reach the Eastern Conference final for the first time since 2009.