Penguins notebook: Goalie Vokoun faces shots in practice
The news for goaltender Tomas Vokoun keeps getting better.
One week after coach Dan Bylsma announced that Vokoun was given permission to begin skating again following a four-month bout with a blood clot, the veteran goaltender absorbed shots at the conclusion of Tuesday's practice.
Bylsma, as he did last week, urged caution regarding Vokoun's attempt to return to the NHL. But the news was encouraging.
“It's another step,” Bylsma said. “Another step down the road.”
This did not mark the first time during the past week that Vokoun has seen shots.
Forwards Beau Bennett and Joe Vitale — both of whom are nursing wrist injuries — took light shots at Vokoun last week.
Taking the ice at the end of practice, Vokoun was able to face shots from players who can shoot with some velocity.
“We wanted him to have a chance to see shooters that weren't injured,” Bylsma said. “It was something we expected to do.”
It remains unclear when or if Vokoun will play for the Penguins this season.
A blood clot in his pelvis sidelined Vokoun in September, and the Penguins announced a few days later that he was out three- to six months.
Bylsma said Vokoun likely is to continue jumping on the ice at the beginning or the conclusion of team practice to receive light work.
“He needs to see quite a bit more practice time and shots in the next two or three weeks before we get to another stage (in his recovery),” Bylsma said.
Opik misses practice
Defenseman Brooks Orpik missed Tuesday's practice at Consol Energy Center and, according Bylsma, was given a “maintenance day,” which usually means that a player is nursing a minor injury.
The defenseman, who will play for Team USA at the Olympics in February, was hit in the face by Buffalo forward Ville Leino's high stick on Monday.
He did not miss any action against the Sabres. Orpik was the only player to participate in Monday's game who was unable to practice.
Getting started early
Bylsma spent a lot of time as an NHL player on the West Coast while playing for the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. So he knows a thing or two about time changes — especially because of the difficult travel schedule that often faces teams in the Western Conference.
Consequently, the Penguins will travel to Los Angeles early Wednesday morning and practice at Staples Center late Wednesday afternoon before Thursday's game. Ordinarily the Penguins would practice in Pittsburgh the day before a game, and then travel to the visiting city.
Earlier this season, the Penguins went to Vancouver for an early practice and won the following night.
A new twist
The Penguins have made having a “dad's trip” an annual event. However, the players won't be taking their fathers on a road trip this season.
Instead, they'll be taking their mothers.
The “mom's trip” is scheduled for this week, as a number of moms will be joining the Penguins on their two-game road trip to Los Angeles and Phoenix.
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.
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