It is precisely the kind of opportunity Jeff Zatkoff has craved for years.
He just didn't want to get it this way.
Zatkoff entered training camp -- this past weekend -- penciled in as the No. 1 goalie for the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre.
But he will go into the final stages of the preseason cast as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup, now that Tomas Vokoun is out after having a procedure Saturday to remove a blood clot from his pelvis.
"It's really unfortunate, what happened to [Vokoun]," Zatkoff said Sunday. "Especially that kind of situation, you don't ever want to see that.
"At the same time, I'm ready. This is an opportunity I've been waiting for."
Zatkoff is expected to start one of the Penguins' final two preseason games. Coach Dan Bylsma declined to say whether it will be against Chicago tonight at Consol Energy Center or Wednesday in Detroit.
How Zatkoff performs, and how Vokoun's recovery progresses, presumably will determine whether management will rely on him as the No. 2 goalie, or opt to investigate the merits of bringing in a veteran free agent such as Johan Hedberg or Jose Theodore.
Although the Penguins maintain lists of potential acquisitions at all positions as a matter of course, actively pursuing another goalie seems unlikely until they have a sense of how long Vokoun might be out.
Although he is expected to miss at least part of the season, it apparently will be later this week before a prognosis begins to emerge.
"I don't think, for the next few days, there is going to be much of an update," Bylsma said.
Vokoun is scheduled to make $2 million this season, but the league's collective bargaining agreement allows the Penguins to request long-term injury relief for his salary if it is determined that he will be out for at least 24 calendar days and 10 games.
The decision on whether to seek that apparently has not been made.
Zatkoff, 26, is being paid $537,500 on the NHL portion of the two-way contract he signed with the Penguins in 2012. His resume includes five seasons of pro hockey, three-plus of which he spent with Los Angeles' minor league team in Manchester, N.H.
He went 26-20 in 49 appearances with the Baby Penguins in 2012-13, compiling a 1.93 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.
"He's played some great games," Bylsma said. "When you look around the league, there are some goalies in the league -- backup goalies, second goalies in organizations -- who Jeff has flat-out outplayed with his experience, and his games.
"He just hasn't gotten a start at the National Hockey League level to say that's the case. He has a good body of work. He's been an exceptional goalie, last year, in our organization and the situation, [as] it stands right now, he's going to get some time in the net here in the next couple of games."
Even if he begins the regular season as Fleury's backup, however, Zatkoff figures to carry a lighter workload than Vokoun would.
"If, at this point in time, the backup goalie is Jeff Zatkoff, I think it would be different for our team, in terms of how many games Marc would play, and maybe which games and how we would work the schedule," Bylsma said.
Bylsma repeatedly and emphatically has stated that Fleury is the Penguins' go-to goalie for 2013-14, and expressed no reservations about using him more often than he would have if Vokoun were available.
"The number of games that a bigger workload means is not a significant number in the course of a month or two months," Bylsma said. "It's another three to four games, maybe, more than what it was last year.
"Marc likes to play. If he's playing all 82, he's happy with that."
Fleury didn't dispute that suggestion.
"I'm not sure there's a magic number," he said. "I'll just go in whenever the coach asks me to. I'd love to play every game."
Zatkoff is excited about getting his first start at this level.
"I wanted to come in and try to turn heads, try to stick around as long as I could, knowing that they had Fleury and [Vokoun] here," he said.
"If I get the opportunity to play, I want to make sure I get in there, play well and leave a good impression."
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG.