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Penguins notebook: Vokoun knows about pressure

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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun makes a save during the first period against the Islanders on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Josh Yohe
Thursday, May 16, 2013, 7:21 p.m.
 

Vokoun knows about pressure

Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun looks unflappable during games, even in the midst of the pressure-filled Stanley Cup playoffs.

A past experience in Vokoun's life makes hockey — even this time of year — seem tame.

In 2006, Vokoun was forced to remove himself from the lineup shortly before the playoffs because of severe back pain. Playing with Nashville, he was diagnosed with pelvic thrombophlebitis, a rare blood condition that gave Vokoun blood clots.

He found himself in the hospital for days, wondering if he'd ever play hockey again. In fact, his concerns were more powerful than hockey.

“I didn't know what was wrong with me,” Vokoun said. “I had massive blood clots behind my abdominal wall. They didn't know if it was a tumor or whatever.”

It took doctors a few days to determine the extent of his condition.

“You're doing full-body scans,” Vokoun said. “There are a lot of sick people sitting in the waiting room. I was still pretty young (29). I would say I was freaking out. It's one of those things, you think it's never going to happen to you. Fortunately it didn't. But even those couple of days when I didn't know what was wrong, it was scary.”

Vokoun took blood-thinners for some time but was cleared to play again later that summer.

Seven years later, he finds himself the Penguins' starting goaltender in the playoffs.

“You get better,” he said of his health scare, “and you still want to win. It's fun to be in this locker room and to be playing this time of year.”

Odds and ends

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and Ottawa coach Paul MacLean orchestrated full team practices Thursday, a day after offering their teams optional workouts. ... The Penguins have no signs of injuries, a rarity during the postseason.

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