Rinne re­freshed, ea­ger to go for Preds

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - By TERESA M. WALKER

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Pekka Rinne’s string of start­ing ev­ery play­off game for the Nashville Preda­tors since 2010 may be in jeop­ardy.

That 89-game run may change Aug. 2 when Nashville starts its best-of-five qual­i­fy­ing se­ries with Ari­zona.

When the NHL sus­pended play in mid-March, Rinne watched from the bench as fel­low Finn Ju­use Saros strength­ened his hold on the Nashville net with each vic­tory. Now the 37-year-old Rinne has had four months to rest up and work out, and he wants to re­claim his start­ing job.

“I’ve been putting in a lot of work the past four months,” Rinne said Mon­day af­ter the Preda­tors’ first prac­tice of train­ing camp. “Very mo­ti­vated from this past sea­son. I feel like it wasn’t my strong­est sea­son and want to bounce back.”

Coach John Hynes, hired Jan. 7 to re­place Peter Lavi­o­lette, is mak­ing no com­mit­ment to ei­ther goal­tender with the Preda­tors just start­ing their first train­ing camp with him in charge. Per­for­mance will de­cide whether Rinne or Saros starts.

“Hope­fully one of the two guys makes it for us in a pos­i­tive way,” Hynes said.

Rinne, a four-time Vez­ina Tro­phy fi­nal­ist and 2018 win­ner, is in rare com­pany as one of four goalies in NHL history to start at least 89 con­sec­u­tive play­off games for one team.

Martin Brodeur started 194 games be­tween 1994 and 2012 with the New Jersey Devils. Pa­trick Roy was in net for 133 games for Colorado be­tween 1996 and 2003. Hen­rik Lundqvist has started 127 straight play­off games for the Rangers since 2006, a streak also at risk of end­ing Aug. 1 when New York plays Carolina.

If Hynes picks a starter based on re­cent play, it would be Saros. The 25-year-old from Forssa, Fin­land, was in net for Nashville’s last six vic­to­ries, while Rinne went 1-3-1 in his fi­nal five starts al­low­ing 17 goals. Saros is bet­ter in ev­ery sta­tis­ti­cal cat­e­gory ex­cept wins where Rinne is 18-14-4 com­pared to 17-12-4 for Saros.

“That was pretty much the first time in a long, long time when I was mostly watch­ing games from the bench at the end of the sea­son,” Rinne said. “And I had no prob­lem the way he was play­ing and I wasn’t play­ing as strong.”

Now friend­ship is pushed aside for com­pe­ti­tion.

“We both un­der­stand that,” Rinne said. “And we’ll see how it plays out. Big­gest thing for I think from the both per­spec­tive, I think the only only thing we want to do is help the team no mat­ter what, which guy’s play­ing.”

Saros said Tues­day he’s do­ing his best to earn that spot too, even if Rinne is the best pos­si­ble goalie part­ner help­ing him on and off the ice.

“We’re good friends out­side of hockey, too, es­pe­cially now dur­ing this Phase 2 and Phase 3,” Saros said. “He’s been cook­ing a lot of din­ner for us Finns, and we were play­ing some ‘Call Of Duty’ to­gether.”

It’s a re­la­tion­ship be­tween goal­tenders with the mu­tual re­spect be­tween Rinne and Ju­use that Hynes said he’s never seen be­fore in his ca­reer.

“The way that they work with each other and push each other is pretty im­pres­sive,” Hynes said.

This train­ing camp gives Rinne, who turns 38 in Novem­ber and has one sea­son left on his con­tract with Nashville, a fresh start. Rinne spent the break fol­low­ing most of his usual sum­mer train­ing rou­tine with the big dif­fer­ence that he skated for five weeks.

Rinne has started the past three sea­sons very strong. He started this sea­son go­ing 7-0-2 in Oc­to­ber with two shutouts and a 2.19 goals against av­er­age and .920 save per­cent­age. Dur­ing Oc­to­ber of the past three sea­sons, Rinne is 15-2-4.

“I’d like to think that I al­ways come to the camps in good shape ...,” Rinne said. “But I think now is more cru­cial than ever be­fore. You know it’s play­off time.”

The Preda­tors re­mem­ber Rinne car­ry­ing them to the 2017 Stan­ley Cup Fina l with how well he played in net. They also have seen Saros turn in a ca­reer-best four shutouts. Cen­ter Ryan Jo­hansen said it can’t hurt hav­ing what he called “two studs” avail­able.

“We all know what they’re both ca­pa­ble of,” Jo­hansen said. “And with Peks, his history in this league is long time, so pretty sim­ple an­swer. I guess it can only be ben­e­fi­cial for our group hav­ing those two guys.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

GOALIE RACE Preda­tors goal­tenders Ju­use Saros, bot­tom, and Pekka Rinne, top, talk dur­ing train­ing camp on Tues­day, in Nashville, Ten­nessee.

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