Tomas Vokoun's absence is no longer indefinite. Pittsburgh's backup goaltender will be on the shelf for 3-6 months, according to a statement from Penguins GM Ray Shero Wednesday.
Vokoun will be placed on blood thinners for a time after having a blood clot removed in late September, making hockey activities a complete non-starter.
"He'll be out three to six months," Shero said. "He's going to be on blood-thinning medicine for that amount of time.
"Physically he's doing great. Mentally he's doing great, which is good news. During this time he's okay to workout and do everything except play hockey. We'll evaluate this as we go along."
Wednesday's announcement confirmed what many assumed would be a lengthy absence. Vokoun, entering the second of a two-year deal with the Penguins, hasn't conceded his season. However, hockey is not his priority.
"Right now I'm not thinking about my career or playing hockey. I'm more worried about long-term health," Vokoun said. "I've gotten great care from the doctors and the team."
A six-month absence would take Vokoun right up to the end of the regular season. While Pittsburgh is currently giving AHL veteran Jeff Zatkoff a chance to earn the back-up role, the move isn't necessarily one made out of charity. Pittsburgh is tight against the cap, and Vokoun's LTIR status just gave the team enough leverage to be cap-compliant by Thursday, to say nothing of opening up space to bring in a veteran back-up.
Marc-Andre Fleury has recently fallen into a routine of playing well in the regular season, but wilting under the big pressure of the playoffs.
Suddenly, that sort of pressure is weighing down on his regular season.
While Fleury and the Pens prepare for a season which begins Thursday against the Devils, Vokoun, 37, remains focused on his recovery.
"I know where I stand," Vokoun said. "I'm going with the short term. Three months is a minimum. After that I'll evaluate where I am. The doctors will monitor my health and progress. I'll make my decision then."
Audio courtesy Ali Doyle & Pittsburgh Penguins