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Penguins notebook: Vokoun playing in regular-season game a possibility

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins goaltender Jeff Zatkoff makes a first-period save on the Lightning's Steven Stamkos on Saturday, March 22, 2014, 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.

Saturday, March 22, 2014, 6:45 p.m.
 

While allowing that Tomas Vokoun could appear in one of the Penguins' final 12 regular-season games, coach Dan Bylsma said the veteran goalie still is experiencing soreness and indicated the Penguins are preparing for Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff to be their postseason goalies.

Vokoun has not played this season since the discovery of a pelvic blood clot in September. He has been practicing with the Penguins for a month.

“Tomas has been progressing in terms of his health,” Bylsma said. “With the ramp up in practice and number of shots he's taken, he has dealt with some general soreness to that level, but he's not at the point where he's ready to play a game yet.

“Hopefully we'll possibly work him back to that as we wind down here.”

Bylsma termed the likelihood Vokoun gets into a regular-season game over the final three weeks as “a mere possibility.”

When asked if it was a priority to get Vokoun into a game prior to the postseason, Bylsma didn't give an answer suggesting that preparing Vokoun for the playoffs was a priority.

“We're working toward Marc-Andre getting 65 games or so, and Jeff also carried a lot more workload in this heavy month of March,” Bylsma said. “There's not a three-goalie rotation.”

Fleury has played in 55 games, Zatkoff 17. Twelve regular-season games remain.

Powerful power play

After spending much of the season holding the NHL's No. 1 power play, the Penguins' recent slump had dropped them into a tie for the league lead heading into Saturday.

A 3-for-6 performance against the Lightning vaulted them back up.

“We can't score every game, of course, and a couple games we didn't score,” center Evgeni Malkin said. “Today, we played so much better.”

The Penguins were limited to three power-play goals in their previous seven games. That dropped their conversion percentage to 23.9 — the same as Washington's. After a 4-3 overtime win over Tampa Bay, the Penguins' rate was 24.6 percent.

Malkin and Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists each on the power play Saturday. James Neal had a power-play goal in overtime. Defenseman Matt Niskanen also had a power-play assist.

The only player on the No. 1 unit to get shut out of the scoresheet was Chris Kunitz, who is tied for second in the NHL in power-play goals.

“You watch the five guys that they roll out there,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said, “it's not just class. It's world class.”

Assisting greatness

Zatkoff assisted on Crosby's second-period goal for his first career NHL point.

The other assist went to Malkin.

“That's a ‘Stop and watch Geno do it all,' ” Zatkoff said. “I'll take my name on a scoresheet, though, with Geno and Sid.”

Widening the lead

When the game ended Saturday, Crosby had 94 points (34 goals, 60 assists) and held an 18-point lead in the NHL scoring race.

The most recent time a player won the Art Ross Trophy by as wide a margin was Jaromir Jagr in 1998-99. Jagr had 127 points for the Penguins; runner-up Teemu Selanne had 107.

Tip-ins

Neal's overtime goal Saturday gave him three this season, tying a franchise record with Colby Armstrong (2006-07), Crosby (2005-06), Ryan Malone (2003-04), Aleksey Morozov (2003-04) and Jagr (1998-99). … Craig Adams appeared in his 276th consecutive game, tying him with Nick Harbaruk for the third-longest streak in Penguins history. Ron Schock (313 games) and Jordan Staal (303) are the only players in franchise history with longer streaks.

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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