After Monday's practice, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach John Hynes didn't seem too concerned by the fact that his starting goaltender, Jeff Zatkoff, left the ice early accompanied by trainer Patrick Steidle.
In fact, Hynes didn't really take notice at the time.
I didn't know he was off actually, Hynes said. I noticed they changed the drill.
While an update on Zatkoff's status – and if there is actually an injury – won't be known until after Hynes discusses it with Steidle, the reason for his lack of concern may have to do with who would take Zatkoff's place if he was forced to miss time.
That would be veteran netminder Brad Thiessen, the former Aldege Baz Bastien Memorial Award winner as the AHL's outstanding goaltender for the 2010-11 season.
Thiessen is now in his fourth AHL season – all with the Penguins – and while Zatkoff's hot play this year has relegated him to the backup role, stepping in as a starter again would be a familiar spot. Thiessen appeared in 40-plus games each of the last two seasons, while he has made only six starts this year.
It's definitely different, Thiessen said about playing so infrequently. I'm used to playing a little bit more, but Jeff's been playing great.
If Zatkoff does miss time, Hynes said he is comfortable with Thiessen stepping in as the starter and that's a big reason why the organization resigned him over the summer.
When Brad wanted to come back we thought it would be a good fit, Hynes said. We just feel throughout the course of the year there's going to be tweaks, injuries and call-ups, and we feel comfortable that we have two guys that can play.
Prior to Saturday, Thiessen hadn't made a start since Nov. 25. During Saturday's 4-3 loss to Portland, he faced 33 shots, eight power plays an overtime period and a shootout in a game that had a little bit of everything.
But that's nothing new to Thiessen, who has gone to either an overtime or shootout in four of his six starts.
It was a lot of different situations, so I was busy and active, he said. That helps when you don't play a lot.
With so much time between starts lately, Thiessen has placed a higher emphasis on practices in order to be ready when he is called.
By working hard in practice, he said, Thiessen can show the coaches that his game is up to par and he is prepared for any opportunity that comes along.
That opportunity could present itself soon, depending on Zatkoff's status.
It's a situation I've done in the past and I'm ready, Thiessen said. I've worked hard and put myself in a position where I'm not going to feel out of place. I'm ready to contribute if that's the case.
If Zatkoff is in fact injured and misses time, Patrick Killeen would likely be the next in line for a recall from Wheeling to back up Thiessen. But Wheeling Nailers' beat writer Shawn Rine of the Intelligencer tweeted on Monday that Killeen didn't practice and was at the doctor having his hand checked out.
When asked if he was concerned that the search for a backup, if needed, could get tricky, Hynes said he wasn't worried.
It's just part of what we do, he said.