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Vokoun disappointed but grateful for diagnosis

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

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."