Minor league goaltender Chet Pickard was called up last spring to take away some practice repetitions from Pekka Rinne during the second round of the playoffs. The same thing happened again this week, as Pickard was assigned to Nashville on Tuesday after his season in Cincinnati ended.
“We felt that part of the rest and recovery is that you’ll need a third goalie. When Peks plays, the next day we’ll limit his shots a little bit,” head coach Barry Trotz said Tuesday morning. “[Pickard’s] season is over, so it’s a little bit of a perfect storm there.”
Pickard practiced with the Predators three times this week – and filled in for an ill Rinne as the backup to Anders Lindback Tuesday night – before being assigned to Milwaukee on Thursday to fill in for the suspended Jeremy Smith. Pickard is expected to be back in Nashville during the playoffs.
“It’s been fun. It was a cool experience to sit on the bench the other night and experience the whole game day process; it’s up a few levels from exhibitions,” Pickard said of his week in Nashville.
He continued, “I’m working on tracking the puck. I’ve been working on it every day and [Predators goalie coach] Mitch [Korn] has been reminding me with each shot. If you don’t watch it you can’t stop it.”
The 2008 first-round pick has had a tough time fulfilling his potential over the last few seasons. He has been playing with Cincinnati in the ECHL for most of the last two years, unable to move up a deep organizational depth chart between the pipes.
Last summer, in an effort to take that next step this season, Pickard re-shaped his body. Then and now, Korn has been blown away with the shape Pickard is in.
“He’s in unbelievable physical condition,” Korn said. “He’s way quicker on the ice, and he’s brisk and he’s crisp. He looks good out there.”
Pickard still had a tough year with Cincinnati, going 14-12-2 with a 3.12 goals-against average and .890 save percentage in 32 games.
“It hasn’t been an easy process, but no one said it would be easy,” he said. “Numbers wise I’m still not where I want to be. … I got to play more [in Cincinnati] than I would have in Milwaukee. I think the most important part for a goalie is just playing.”
The Predators hope Pickard can continue to develop into the goalie everyone thinks he still can be.
“He played way better at the end of the season in Cincinnati – that’s the positive,” Korn said. “He needs to continue to improve as we move forward. Hopefully this experience will help with that.”
(Headline slider picture credit: Sarah Fuqua)