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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Vokoun eases into background

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PITTSBURGH -- There are places in the world, from a personal standpoint, that make a lot more sense for Tomas Vokoun than western Pennsylvania.

The 36-year-old goaltender could be back home in his native Czech Republic. Or in Florida with his wife and children, retired from hockey or maybe just waiting for the phone to ring with the promise of a starting job elsewhere in the NHL.

Instead Vokoun is ready to serve as a backup to entrenched No. 1 Marc-Andre Fleury, the first time in more than a decade Vokoun isn't the guy at the top of the depth chart.

"When you progress in life you go through different phases of your career," Vokoun said Monday. "This is what I choose. (Starting) is not my biggest thing. I knew what I was choosing and I want to finish my career in a good atmosphere in a good organization and be a part of winning."

Besides, the way coach Dan Bylsma is talking, Vokoun might not be No. 2 so much as No. 1B. With a compressed schedule that crams 48 games into 99 days, Vokoun could get pretty regular work during particularly crowded weeks.

"You're going to see the goalies be used more not so much based on who we play," Bylsma said. "Each goalie will get his share of games, his number of games."

Any sort of guess as to how the work will be divided is silly on the second day of training camp, though Bylsma pointed to how the New Jersey Devils split the starts during the lockout-shortened 1995 season as a primer of sorts.

Martin Brodeur, all of 22-years-old at the time, played in 40 games while Chris Terreri appeared in 15. The occasional day off left Brodeur fresh for the post-season, where he went 16-4 and led the Devils to their first Stanley Cup. They also created a bond that is still active today. Brodeur, 40, will return to his starting role this season in New Jersey, while Terreri is his goaltender coach.

"The key is going to be managing the schedule," Bylsma said, "and playing time."

Pittsburgh has eight sets of back-to-back games, meaning Vokoun won't have to worry about getting planted on the bench for too long. Yet he's also aware the starting job is Fleury's until Bylsma says otherwise.

Vokoun went 25-17-2 with a 2.51 goals-against average last season with the Washington Capitals, numbers that weren't far off from the 2.36 posted by Fleury.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 15, 2013 C2

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