When Tomas Vokoun was sidelined last week with a blood clot, it meant an opportunity for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton netminder Jeff Zatkoff to show his skill to the NHL club.
Vokoun’s injury and Zatkoff’s status as the de facto number two netminder in Pittsburgh also opens the door for someone to jump into the Penguins’ cage in Northeast PA.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton actually has four netminders in training camp at the moment - veteran Peter Mannino, who has yet to practice due to a minor injury; rookie Eric Hartzell, who was signed by the Pittsburgh Penguins after helping Quinnipiac to the NCAA title last year; and former Pens goalies Andy Chiodo and Jeff Deslauriers (pictured right), who are both in camp on tryout agreements.
But if head coach John Hynes was concerned about the uncertainty between the pipes, he wasn’t letting on after Tuesday’s practice.
“It's not really something to worry about, just because we feel good with the group of goaltenders that we have. We have depth,” said Hynes. “Right now it's good, because it’s a fairly competitive situation. We like the guys that we have, and we don't have to be too concerned about the situation in Pittsburgh, because we have three guys here that we feel that can play.”
Of the three currently suiting up for practices, Chiodo is by far the most familiar to Penguins fans. The hero of the 2004 Calder Cup Playoffs for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton played parts of three seasons with the local team, posting a 31-30-5 regular season record with the club. He has spent six of the past seven seasons playing overseas in Finland, Russia and Austria.
Hartzell concluded his college career by being named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey’s top individual honor. He posted a 58-27-17 mark with a 1.96 goals against average during his four years with the ECAC’s Bobcats, and suited up as Vokoun’s backup in a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators late last season. That is his only pro experience to date.
Now entering his 10th season in the pro ranks, Deslauriers has the most experience of the three at the pro level in North America. He has 62 NHL games on his resume for the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks, as well as nearly 200 in the AHL – including 40 as a member of the Penguins during the 2006-07 season.
“You have Hartzell, Deslauriers and Chiodo who are all at different points in their careers, but they're also fighting for their careers, to get into a starting job and prove that they belong in the net,” Hynes said, noting that Chiodo and Hartzell would split time in net during Wednesday night’s preseason contest in Rochester.
With four contests in five days, Hynes is also looking forward to seeing his players in actual game situations for the first time this season.
“The games are nice…guys get a lot of game action, you can look at a lot of different players, you can see them in game action and not just practice,” he said. “You get a bigger look at your depth pool. You get the guys who possibly could be in Wheeling a little bit more game time and get to know those guys better. It helps with continuity as the season goes on.”
Now we give them equal opportunities to see who belongs where, and I think we should be able to start the season off with some quality guys.
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