Penguins' Zatkoff, Letang Steal 3-2 SO Win from Blackhawks' B-Squad

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

It wasn't pretty and it was barely effective, but the Pens topped Chicago's AHL roster 3-2 in a shootout Monday night.

Quick gamer. If you want to blame anyone, blame the Pirates. You can also blame me

The most important thing to remember about the NHL preseason is that nothing is important at all.

It's not useless, mind you. Players need to get into game shape, coaches need to tinker with their rosters and the NHL needs to sell more hot dogs and beer. So when the Pittsburgh Penguins trot out three-fourths of their likely NHL roster against the Chicago Blackhawks' AHL affiliate and Bryan Bickell, and still play a poor, listless, lifeless game, it doesn't matter.

It didn't matter when they started the game like coma patients just as much as it didn't matter when they ended it with two late goals to tie the game in the third and then blew through the skills competition like they invented it.

So don't worry about it.

That's not to say that there aren't takeaways to be had from this game, which featured back-up goaltender to-be Jeff Zatkoff. Following Tomas Vokoun's blood clot scare, it appears the Penguins will have a significant vacancy at an essential position. There is no timetable for Vokoun's return and there likely won't be for some time.

Marc-Andre Fleury's workload already figured to be heavy enough with the compressed Olympic-year schedule. With the salary cap pressing down on them and a significant hole to fill, Zatkoff is the likely back-up for the foreseeable future.

Zatkoff acquitted himself nicely in the game, stopping 30 of 32 shots as well as making several big stops in overtime and pitching a perfect two-for-two in the shootout. He didn't allow anything after a power play goal in the second period, stopping all 12 shots he faced in the third and fourth frames.

It remains to be seen what the Penguins will do with Vokoun once the nature of his injury is better known. If the salary cap continues to limit their options, Zatkoff may be pressed into service whether he's really ready or not.

With five years of AHL experience playing behind deep NHL tandems in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, though, Zatkoff has had plenty of time to hone his game in the minors.

Pittsburgh has 13 games in the first month of the season, including two sets of back-to-backs. Here's betting Zatkoff will get his big break sooner than later.

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