Penguins goalie Vokoun knows return is out of his control


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SUNRISE, Fla. -- Tomas Vokoun looks and feels normal. The daily medication he takes is his only reminder of why he can't strap on his goaltending gear and face any shots.

"I feel great, don't have any health issues," Vokoun said Saturday night while watching the Penguins' 5-1 win at Florida and visiting with his teammates.

Vokoun, a strong backup to Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury last season, is no closer to knowing when -- or if -- his career will resume than he was right after he had surgery Sept. 21 to dissolve a blood clot in his pelvis.

As part of the normal follow-up, he is taking the blood-thinner warfarin for a minimum of three months. That means he can work out but not participate in contact sports, so he is spending his time with his family in their south Florida home. He formerly played for the Panthers.

"Basically, the process was three months minimum and I'm a little around eight weeks now," Vokoun said.

At the three-month mark, around Christmas, Vokoun could be cleared to stop taking the blood-thinners and rejoin the team.

"It's hard to kind of look that much time ahead, but definitely if I get cleared I want to try [to come back]," Vokoun said. "We'll see. I don't have a definitive yes or no. It's all going to depend on the recommendations of doctors, but so far I haven't had any problems or setbacks."

Or he could be advised to take the medication for another three months. That would push any comeback to the final few weeks of the season, which would "be pretty tough to try to come back right before the season is over," he said.

At 37 and facing unrestricted free agency next summer, there is no guarantee Vokoun will play again.

"Anything can happen," he said. "When you play professional sports, you've got to understand it's not going to be forever. 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. And the best-case scenario is everything is going to be OK and I'm going to make my decision if I play or don't play."

Rookie Jeff Zatkoff has stepped in as Fleury's backup. He made 39 saves Saturday against Florida to improve to 4-2, but he is not being given the amount of games that Vokoun would have handled.

Vokoun, for now at least, is enjoying a break from the grind of a hockey season.

"I've been busy for a long time," he said. "It's actually a nice break being home. The last few years were real hard when I was playing somewhere else and my family was living here. That part is definitely good. You can always find something good in bad situations, and I think that's a real benefit, to be able to be home and see my kids."

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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