Vokoun disappointed but grateful for diagnosis

Updated: April 12, 2006, 7:38 PM ET
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tomas Vokoun has his priorities in order.

Tomas Vokoun
Vokoun

Sure the former All-Star goaltender would rather be preparing for the playoffs with the Nashville Predators.

But knowing that one blood clot could have slipped from his abdomen and killed him makes watching the postseason and awaiting the birth of his second child much easier to handle.

"Definitely disappointed, but I always follow my health and my family in the first place, so I take doctors' advice," Vokoun said Wednesday.

"The doctors know what they're doing, and it could've been a lot worse if they didn't detect it. The blood clot could've got loose, and I would've been in big trouble then."

The Predators announced Monday that Vokoun, 29, has pelvic thrombophlebitis, a rare blood condition that created a multitude of blood clots. He spent more than three days in the hospital while doctors ran tests and gave him blood thinners to reduce the risk of a clot breaking loose.

Vokoun spoke with reporters at the practice rink. He said he feels fortunate and healthy, without the back pain that first sent him to doctors trying to figure out what was wrong.

"They said it's perfectly curable and I should be fine in six months. It's tough timing for the playoffs for me. But that's something you don't worry about when you think about your health," Vokoun said.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz said it was good to see Vokoun walking around.

"Better walking than lying down in a hospital bed any day," Trotz said.

He won't see Vokoun on the ice until next season at the earliest because he will be on blood thinners for up to six months, taking a pill a day that makes hockey too risky.

"It's tough not to play the playoffs. It's going to leave me six months without hockey," the goalie said.

Vokoun largely is the reason for the Predators' best season ever. He has a career-best record of 36-18-7, which ranked fifth in the NHL through Wednesday even though he hasn't played since April 1.

Originally, he tried to play through his discomfort, sitting out two games before trying to practice last week when the pain made him stop. MRIs and CT scans had him worried, not knowing if he might have cancer or another serious disease.

He was hospitalized last Friday when the clots were diagnosed. Then came tests to determine if the condition was genetic, the result of trauma or perhaps even a long airplane ride. Doctors said Monday they didn't know what caused the clots, and he was released Monday night.

Vokoun already had decided against playing for the Czech Republic in the world championships later this year after helping them win gold last year. With his wife due to give birth on June 10, he will be staying in Nashville and preparing for next season.

He also will be helping Chris Mason, the backup who now takes over as the Predators' top goalie with no NHL playoff experience. Because of the clots, Vokoun likely won't be allowed to accompany the team on trips to the West Coast.

Vokoun called Mason, now 9-5-1 with a save percentage of .919 and two shutouts, a hard worker. How he fares in his first postseason experience remains to be seen.

"There's no way of knowing before you get there. Everything else would be just words and not really based on any evidence. We'll all find out," Vokoun said.

The Predators need only one victory in their final three games -- all at home -- to clinch home-ice advantage in the opening round.

They are hearing critics predicting a quick exit without Vokoun.

"To me, that's a little bit of a slap in the face," Trotz said. "I think we're a pretty good hockey team. ... The only thing we need to do is prove it on the ice."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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