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Predator's Vokoun Ready to Play Again

By TERESA M. WALKER
The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 26, 2006; 6:33 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tomas Vokoun knows his blood clots could pose problems in the future. For now, the Nashville Predators goaltender is healthy and ready to play hockey again.

"In my mind, I think I'm going to use it as motivation and have it like a second chance in my career and try to be better," Vokoun said Wednesday.

Vokoun had back pain in April when doctors diagnosed him with 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 risks of a clot breaking loose.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota cleared Vokoun on Monday after reviewing his status. The blood clots that kept Vokoun from finishing last season and put him on three months of blood thinners likely resulted from a childhood accident.

Vokoun said the blood clots didn't grow or get smaller with the blood thinners.

"That's basically the sign of being an old blood clot turning into scar tissue and growing into the side of the veins in your stomach, which is part of my anatomy right now. It's just something you just live with. Your body finds different ways to fix broken stuff inside you," Vokoun said.

Vokoun was only 10 months old when he grabbed a tablecloth, dumping hot coffee on himself. The blood clot is in his right groin, near where doctors inserted a catheter during his treatment as a baby.

"It's just a part of me right now," Vokoun said. "They're not primed to break loose or anything. They're just scar tissue right now, and they're stable."

Vokoun had a career-best 36-18-7 record last season, playing in 61 of Nashville's first 74 games. When his season ended, he ranked fifth in the NHL with his record in goal. He also helped the Czech Republic win bronze at the Olympics.

He had a 2.67 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.

Losing the goalie was a blow the Predators couldn't overcome, falling in five games to San Jose in the first round of the playoffs.

General manager David Poile said getting Vokoun back was similar to an offseason acquisition or big free-agent signing. He said they exhausted the options of what could or should be done with Vokoun's condition and are happy that the father of two young girls has his health and can lead a normal life.

"Selfishly, it's very important to the Nashville Predators as our No.1 goalie," Poile said.

Vokoun, who turned 30 earlier this month, has been busy lifting weights and conditioning _ work that was not limited by being on blood thinners. He has added about 10 pounds of weight and planned to skate perhaps as soon as Thursday.

The goalie said he was excited by the Predators' offseason additions of center Jason Arnott and trading for 6-foot-4 Jason Vasicek, a fellow Czech native. Nashville also re-signed goalie Chris Mason, who filled in for Vokoun.

"I'm going to go out and get myself in the best possible position to play well and play hockey because it's a lot of fun. I love to do it. I'm glad I get the chance to do it again," Vokoun said.

© 2006 The Associated Press