Penguins notebook: Tomas Vokoun 'open-minded' as AHL stint begins
Goalie Tomas Vokoun isn't certain about his role moving forward.
He is excited, though, to see what game action feels like again.
Vokoun, recovered from a blood clot that kept him off the ice for four months, reported to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL on Wednesday.
His role moving forward remains a mystery. Jeff Zatkoff is entrenched as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup, though he doesn't possess Vokoun's experience.
“That's up to the coaches,” Vokoun said. “When we talked back in January, I told them I'm open-minded. Regardless of what happened, I was 90 percent sure it was going to be my last season anyway.
“I'm here to help. It seems like the coaches and the management want me to be around. Whatever my role is, I'm fine either way.”
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes said Vokoun will play in two of the final three regular-season games, all of which are this week.
Hynes also hinted that the Penguins haven't discounted the possibility of using Vokoun in the NHL this season. The 37-year-old veteran has won 300 NHL games, including a 17-4 record in his first season with the Penguins. He went 6-5 in the postseason.
“It's part of what we have to do,” Hynes said. “It's important for Tomas to get some live game action and hopefully help prepare himself for the National Hockey League.”
Vokoun has been practicing with the Penguins for the past two months. However, he acknowledged receiving enough time in practice has been difficult because the priority has been to make sure Fleury and Zatkoff get the bulk of work.
“It's tough to practice with three goalies when we are in Pittsburgh,” Vokoun said. “That's the main reason I'm here. I want to get a full practice and hopefully get a couple of games and see where I'm at.”
Vokoun said he has felt some soreness but is pleased with how his body has felt during practices.
“Quite honestly,” he said, “I felt better than I expected.”
Center Evgeni Malkin and winger Chris Conner skated Wednesday at Consol Energy Center. It remains unknown whether Malkin will be ready when the Penguins begin the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It appears unlikely he will see regular-season game action. Malkin suffered a stress fracture in his foot in March against St. Louis.
New names, same skill
The Detroit Red Wings have been ravaged by injuries this season. Still, they remain on track to qualify for the playoffs again, and they can thank two of their youngest players.
Gustav Nyquist, 24, has 28 goals this season. Meanwhile, 23-year-old Tomas Tatar has 19 goals.
“We're trying to rebuild this thing on the fly,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We have a lot of kids who are making a difference for us.”
Engelland back to rover
Defenseman Deryk Engelland doesn't figure to see much time on the blue line this spring should Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Olli Maatta and Matt Niskanen remain healthy.
That doesn't mean Engelland won't be in the lineup.
Coach Dan Bylsma said it is more likely Engelland, who has been effective in cameo appearances on the fourth line this season, will see time at forward.
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.
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