Nashville's Vokoun will miss entire postseason

Updated: April 10, 2006, 7:17 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun will miss the final four games of the regular season and the entire postseason because of a blood condition.

Melrose on Vokoun

Vokoun
ESPN's Barry Melrose says that Nashville coach Barry Trotz will have to do his best Dr. Phil act to keep his team focused. Why? Read more of Melrose's analysis of Tomas Vokoun's injury. Story

The 29-year-old Vokoun has not played since April 1, when he had 35 saves in a 2-1 victory over St. Louis. The Predators had been listing Vokoun as day-to-day with a sore back, but general manager David Poile said Monday that Vokoun has pelvic thrombophlebitis.

Poile said full recovery is expected, but Vokoun will be on blood-thinning medication for several weeks.

Team doctors thought Vokoun had a back injury, but an MRI scan on Friday found blood clots throughout his abdomen and pelvic area. Vokoun was hospitalized immediately and put on blood thinning shots and pills to reduce the clots.

"Since being diagnosed with this condition, Tomas has been hospitalized and is receiving medication and undergoing additional tests," said Poile in a statement released by the team. "His treatment, which includes blood-thinning medication, will prohibit him from playing hockey through the remainder of this season. He will continue to be monitored by Dr. (Michael) Pagnani and Dr. (Richard) Garman and we are hopeful that he will be discharged from Baptist Hospital in the next few days."

Understanding Thrombophlebitis
Thrombophlebitis (pronounced thrahm-bow-fleh-bye-tis) occurs mostly in the legs. It is a circulatory problem that develops when a blood clot slows the circulation in a vein, either right under the skin or deeper in the leg.

With thrombophlebitis, the blocked vein becomes swollen, irritated, and even hard to the touch. Most cases involving the shallow leg veins begin to resolve by themselves in a week or two. In rare occasions, some cases can lead to infection and tissue damage from the loss of healthy circulation. And when the deeper veins are involved, there is the risk a portion of the clot could break off and enter the bloodstream, where it could travel far from the injury site and cause serious problems or even death if it reaches the heart or lungs and blocks circulation there.

For more on Thrombophlebitis, visit WebMD.com.

"Tomas had pain in his lower back after our game against St. Louis on April 1," Pagnani said in the same team statement. "After initial MRI tests of his back showed nothing to explain his back pain, further studies were performed that revealed blood clots located in veins in his lower abdomen. Tomas did not sustain an injury to this area, and the tests have not revealed any definite cause for the blood clots."

"We feel very confident he is out of the danger zone,'' said Garman.

Vokoun is expected to leave the hospital within the next two days. Garman said Vokoun is walking and talking in the hospital.

"Life must go on,'' Poile said. "This is a tough loss for our team. He will be missed.''

"Let's not kid ourselves,'' forward Scott Walker said. "He's probably the No. 1 reason we are where we are.''

Vokoun, the team's career leader in wins, had played in 61 of the Predators' first 74 games with a record of 36-18-7. He was 9-4-2 since returning from the Olympics, where he helped the Czech Republic win bronze. He has a 2.67 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.

That leaves the Predators leaning on Chris Mason, who is 8-5-1 with a 2.80 goals against average. His backup is Pekka Rinne, who has appeared in only two NHL games.

"It's a real good opportunity for him and our team to make a statement that, 'Hey, we're more than one player,' and I think people tend to forget about that,'' Trotz said.

The Predators already have lost a franchise-record 260 man-games to injuries this season. Losing the franchise's career leader in wins is the biggest loss yet.

Clearly their most valuable player, the 29-year-old Vokoun played in 61 of the Predators' first 74 games this season. He ranked fifth in the NHL with a record of 36-18-7. He was 9-4-2 since returning from the Olympics, where he helped the Czech Republic win bronze. He had a 2.67 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.

"We can't hide it,'' defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "It's huge. Losing a player like Tomas Vokoun, who's probably one of the top three goalies in the world, you can't hide it. It's a big loss for us.''

Poile said Vokoun was very disappointed and called this a tough loss for the Predators. But his teammates will press on.

"We can't all of a sudden pack our tents up and go home,'' Walker said. "We have a guy who's quite capable of carrying us deep into the playoffs. That's what we expect.''

That will be Mason, who is 8-5-1 with a 2.80 GAA. He is coming off a shutout victory over St. Louis and a shootout win over Chicago.

He watched as Vokoun helped the Predators take Detroit to six games in their lone playoff series in 2004. Mason, who won a title with Valerengen IF Oslo during last year's lockout, said he hadn't played three straight games before this past week.

"I'm pretty confident in myself, especially with the guys here. It's just a matter of ... getting on a roll and just keep going,'' Mason said.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.