After the Pittsburgh Penguins dropped their preseason matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, general manager Ray Shero announced that goaltender Tomas Vokoun would be out of action indefinitely with a blood clot.
Ray Shero explained that Vokoun left practice early that morning with leg pain and swelling. He was taken to the emergency room, and it was discovered that the thirty-seven year old goaltender had a blood clot in his pelvis. Shero continued to explain that Vokoun already underwent a procedure to dissolve the blood clot, but will remain in the hospital for a couple of days. Shero did not put a number to how long Vokoun would be sidelined.
This is not the first time Vokoun has dealt with a blood clot. During the 2005-2006 season with the Nashville Predators, Vokoun was unable to finish the season due to a rare blood condition called “pelvic thrombophlebitis.” However, it was said that his current condition is not the result of an injury.
With Vokoun out for an unknown amount of time, the backup job is somewhat up for grabs. It looks like, at the moment, Jeff Zatkoff will get first crack at backing up Marc-Andre Fleury. Zatkoff spent last season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL, winning twenty-six of the forty-nine games he appeared in with a 1.93 goals against average. The now twenty-six year old goaltender was the third round (74th overall) selection of the Los Angeles Kings in the 2006 NHL draft, but has not seen action in a regular season of playoff game in the pros.
If Zatkoff falters and the Penguins choose to stay within the organization, then next up would probably be Eric Hartzell. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because he and his Quinnipiac University Bobcats were the runners up to the NCAA National Champion Yale University Bulldogs in a frozen four that was held at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Hartzell was a finalist for the Hobey Baker award with a record of 30-7-2 and a 1.57 goals against average during his senior season at Quinnipiac.
Although highly unlikely, given their cap situation, the Penguins could look to free agency to fill the void left by Vokoun. Former Penguin, Johan Hedberg had been in camp with the New York Rangers before being released from his tryout on Wednesday. Another former Penguin, Mathieu Garon is also on a tryout with the Los Angeles Kings. However, he is still on their camp roster. Other free agents available include Ilya Bryzgalov and Jose Theodore, but even if the Penguins were interested, there is no way they could fit them under the current salary cap.