Penguins notebook: Vokoun to take big step today

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For the first time since Sept. 21, Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun will be on the ice at Consol Energy Center this morning.

He is expected to skate before the game-day skate.

Coach Dan Bylsma announced Tuesday that Vokoun was allowed to stop taking blood-thinners about a week ago. He had been on that medication since he had a procedure Sept. 21 to dissolve a blood clot in his pelvis.

“He will see the doctor after he skates,” Bylsma said. “When his blood levels return to normal, he will be able to begin taking shots.”

Bylsma cautioned that getting on the ice “is just a step, just a first step. He’s got a long road ahead of him.

“There are a few more steps before we get close to looking at any kind of timetable [for him to play].”

Still, Bylsma said, “It’s really encouraging.”

Vokoun, 37, backed up Marc-Andre Fleury last season and replaced the struggling Fleury as the starter in the playoffs.

He left a training camp practice because of swelling and discomfort in his leg, and the clot was discovered.

After the clot was dissolved, blood-thinners were prescribed as a standard course of follow-up care.

Doctors said he would be on such medication for a minimum of three months, but it was not known at the time whether he would be allowed to discontinue the blood-thinners in time to have any shot at playing this season.

With Vokoun out, rookie Jeff Zatkoff has handled the backup goaltending duties. He is 7-2-1 with a 2.67 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.

Vokoun has spent much of the season in Florida with his family.

Quick turnaround

The Penguins held a fairly standard practice Tuesday at Southpointe after the 5-1 loss against Florida the night before that might be categorized as their worst game this season.

Veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi said the players already had turned the page and were eager to play tonight, when the Montreal Canadiens visit Consol Energy Center.

“We get a chance to play [tonight],” Scuderi said. “You know you’re not going to win 82 games, but you have to be willing to learn from your mistakes.

“We laid an egg as a team — everyone in here — so let’s just come back and play good [tonight].”

Martin feels good after return

In his first game in nearly two months because of a broken leg, veteran defenseman Paul Martin logged 20 minutes, 6 seconds in the loss against Florida.

That’s more than five minutes less than he was averaging when he got hurt.

“Hopefully, each game will get a little more comfortable and be a little more minutes,” Martin said.

He reported no problems. “No side effects. I feel pretty good.”

New equipment for Ebbett

Penguins forward Andrew Ebbett returned to practice for the first time since he broke an ankle Dec. 5, and he was wearing new, custom-made protectors over his skates.

Who could blame him?

A slap shot by San Jose’s Dan Boyle broke his old protector in half and cracked Ebbett’s ankle.

“It’s a little heavier, and I’ve got it on both sides, the inside and the outside,” he said of the new pieces of equipment, which where made in Montreal and specially molded for his skates.

“I’m confident that it will do the job.”

Ebbett, signed in the offseason, spent nearly two months in the American Hockey League at the start of the season. He was playing in just his fifth game (he had one assist) after being recalled when he got hurt.

“It was probably one of the most frustrating times in my career because I had just come up here and thought I was playing pretty well,” he said.

Ebbett said he has a green light from doctors and his ankle feels strong. He is hoping to can return to the lineup after some practice time.

Shelly Anderson:, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.

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