For every man’s loss, it’s another man’s gain. This is truly evident in the case for a couple of members for the Pittsburgh Penguins. For Olli Maatta, the injury to Kris Letang was likely the only way he was going to see the ice in a Penguins jersey this year. But an even bigger storyline was Tomas Vokoun getting sidelined after having a blood clot removed. It has opened the door for Jeff Zatkoff to finally make his NHL debut.
The 26-year old from Detroit, Michigan spent last season playing for the Penguins AHL Affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, sparkling in 49-games with a .920 save percentage and a 1.93 GAA. His play earned him a brief promotion as a backup. Although he didn’t get any playing time, he showed that his time was coming. He just needed a break.
With Vokoun out, he will get that break, and it will come this weekend against either the Florida Panthers or the Tampa Bay Lighting, likely Friday against the Panthers. There will be no time allowed for Zatkoff to get comfortable, as the better the Penguins become with Zatkoff in the net, the more rest they can give starter Marc-Andre Fleury, which in hindsight, was the goal when the Pirates acquired Vokoun last year.
If Zatkoff can provide a solid backup for Fleury, it will go a long way for the Penguins come crunch time, which is when Fleury’s problems usually flare up. Don’t expect Zatkoff to be thinking too far ahead; he has waiting a long time to make his first NHL save. That will be good enough for now.