Tomas Vokoun is attempting to make a comeback from his blood clot dilemma.
After participating in a full practice on Feb. 19, Vokoun relayed to the media that he was medically cleared to play, and intends to return to the team somewhere down the road this season – per Kasan.
So, as he continues to rehab, the question of ‘who will backstop Marc-Andre Fleury’ is going to inevitably surface.
Jeff Zatkoff, who’s been Fleury’s counterpart the entire season, got off to a shaky start, but has since rebounded exceptionally for Pittsburgh. Recognizing that the first two starts, in which he surrendered 10 goals on 55 shots to the lowly Florida Panthers and New York Islanders, were his introductory games to the NHL, I’ll cut him some slack.
Rattling off seven straight victories following those two outings and winning nine of his last 10 overall, Zatkoff has been a guy the team can rely on moving down the stretch.
This decision won’t be easy.
Both Vokoun and Zatkoff have each contributed to Pittsburgh in their own ways.
Vokoun was the quote-unquote savior for the Pens in the playoffs last year, when Fleury had another one of his postseason meltdowns. And Zatkoff, while he hasn’t sniffed the playoffs, has proven to the Pens’ brass that he’s capable of holding down the fort behind Fleury this season.
The timetable for Vokoun, as of right now, still stands at the 3-6 month prognosis delivered back in September – per Kasan. Ultimately, it’s uncertain whether or not he’ll return to the Pens’ lineup, because we have yet to see him perform live this season, and there’s only a month and some change left to get into game-action.
There’s also the factor of – is he going to be ready?
Vokoun was dominant in the postseason last year; however, due to the fact he’s been out, is he capable of repeating that success this season?
Zatkoff, as I mentioned earlier, has never performed in the postseason. So, they both have their drawbacks.
When it comes down to it, the Pens are going to have to deliberate on who is the better option heading into the playoffs. Do you list Vokoun as the backup realizing he hasn’t played all year? Or do you roll with Zatkoff, who has been along for the ride this season, and who hasn’t been in one playoff game?
It’s really tough, because I can see either one of them being a solid backup to Fleury.
We’ll see how the situation plays out, but if I’m guessing as to what’s going to happen, Vokoun will be the plan B to Fleury. Just because of how effective he was last postseason, and the thought he may be close to hanging up the skates may factor into labeling him the official backup.
As I said before though, this choice won’t be a forgone conclusion. There will be a long, hard resolution process.