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Rash of Injuries Influence Pittsburgh Penguins Opening Night Roster

October 2nd, 2013 at 3:44 PM
By Andrew Brown

The Pittsburgh Penguins medical staff needs a quick break. You know, five minutes or so to grab a cup of coffee and sit down. Anything that does not involve them advising coaches to place another hockey player on injured reserve.

First the good news. All-Star defenseman Kris Letang's lower-body injury isn't thought to be serious and he'll most likely be removed from IR around October 8th. Rookie Oli Maatta is the prime candidate to go back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton when Letang's healthy enough to play again. The Penguins have been very 'hush-hush' about Letang's injury, so there is no guarantee on the early comeback date.

Now the bad news. Goalie Tomas Vokoun's recovery from blood clot removal surgery is three to six months.

General Manager Ray Shero said, "Physically he’s doing great. Mentally he’s doing great, which is good news. (Vokoun) Will be on blood thinning medicine. During this time he’s okay to workout and do everything except play hockey. We’ll evaluate this as we go along. The most important thing for Tomas and for us is his short-term health and long-term health. He’s in good hands.”

On his heath, Vokoun said, "Right now I’m not thinking about my career or playing hockey, I’m more worried about long-term health. I’ve gotten great care from the doctors and the team. Top professionals are giving me advice."

On his return to the ice, he added, "I know where I stand. 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. Then I’ll make my decision then.” 

Newly signed forward Matt D'Agostini will begin the 2013-2014 campaign on the IR with a lower-body injury that he's having a rough time recovering from. His IR stint freed up the money to give Chuck Kobasew a one-year $550,000 deal. Kobasew will be on the third line with Beau Bennett and Brandon Sutter, ending that summer long saga.

On joining the Pens, Kobasew said, "Yeah, I’m excited. It is nice to get things going and it’ll be special for me to put that jersey on.” 

The last player to be bitten by the injury bug (which is probably the size of Mothra) is superstar winger James Neal. Today at practice Neal skated for a spell and took some shots before leaving the ice. His upper body injury has him questionable for the opener tomorrow against the New Jersey Devils.

Head coach Dan Bylsma said, "He was testing it with going out early and shooting. So it didn’t happen today while he was on the ice.”

More details when they are available. Until then, no more Penguins players should leave their houses.

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Tags: Chuck Kobasew, Dan Bylsma, Hockey, James Neal, Kris Letang, Matt D'Agostini, NHL, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tomas Vokoun

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