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Penguins goaltender Vokoun recovering, still hoping to return

| Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, 8:27 p.m.

After watching the Penguins dismantle the Florida Panthers, 5-1, on Saturday night, goaltender Tomas Vokoun visited his teammates in the visitors' locker room at BB&T Center.

Vokoun hopes he is wearing a uniform, not a suit and tie, when he visits the Penguins next.

Out since September after having surgery for a blood clot, Vokoun remains unable to play hockey but hasn't dismissed the idea of playing this season.

“I feel great,” Vokoun said. “Don't have any health issues. I'm still taking the (blood thinners).”

Vokoun was given a three-to-six-month timetable for a possible return. And while the 37-year-old acknowledged that retirement is possible — this is the second time Vokoun has dealt with blood-clot issues, the other time occurring when he played with Nashville in 2006 — he hasn't given up hope of rejoining the Penguins.

“It's hard to look that far ahead,” he said. “But definitely, if I get cleared, I want to try. We'll see. I don't have definite yes or no.

“It's all going to depend on the recommendations of doctors, but so far I haven't had any problems.”

When it was announced Vokoun would miss three to six months, Penguins general manager Ray Shero and Vokoun made it clear the three-month projection was optimistic.

Vokoun, who still isn't allowed to face shots, acknowledged that returning after about six months would be difficult because it would be closing in on the postseason, and he would be rusty. Vokoun, who is married with three children, knows he may never play again.

“It's always kind of a scary situation,” he said. “It's not a broken hand or something, when you're like, ‘Well, it heals, and it's fine.' This is a little bit more serious. The doctors are pretty confident they found the problem and they fixed it. Hopefully that's the case.”

In the four minutes he spent talking with the media after the first period Saturday, Vokoun shifted from optimism to pessimism, a sign that he just doesn't know what the future holds.

“When you play professional sports, you've got to understand that it's not going to be forever,” he said. “I always choose my health over anything else. Saying that, maybe that's never going to be an issue, either. Whatever happens I'm kind of preparing for the worst-case scenario. Best-case scenario, everything is going to be OK, and I can make a decision if I'm going to play or not.”

The Penguins acquired Vokoun following the 2011-12 season, and he provided stability behind starter Marc-Andre Fleury. He went 13-4-0 during his only season in net with the Penguins, and his postseason performance helped guide the Penguins to the Eastern Conference final after Fleury stumbled in the first round.

These days, Vokoun is living with his family in South Florida. Every two weeks, he meets with doctors and has blood drawn.

So far, so good.

Vokoun said having down time with his family has been nice after playing the past few seasons away from Florida, where he spent much of his career.

He was remindful, though, that he still is a member of the franchise.

“I'm still an employee,” he said.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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