A handful of new faces showed up at Centennial Sportsplex on Wednesday, ones who have been busy travelling back to Nashville since Sunday’s tentative agreement between the NHL and NHLPA to end the lockout. One of them was goaltender Pekka Rinne.
“I got back [to Nashville] late last night. I’m a little tired,” he said after an hour-long skate. “I’m just happy to be back here and get back on the ice and be around the boys.”
In September Rinne signed on with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL and played 22 games with them. He struggled in his new surroundings, posting a 3.08 goals-against average and .897 save percentage.
It was reported in early December that Rinne had suffered a groin injury, which the two-time Vezina Trophy finalist denied Wednesday.
“No injury – that was just the media. I am 100 percent healthy,” he said.
Rinne’s last game with Dinamo Minsk was Dec. 9, as he returned home to Finland to prepare for the NHL season. When asked whether he is still in game shape, Rinne said, “We’ll see. Whenever we start playing we’ll mentally be so fired up that no matter what we’re going to be ready to play.”
Said Rinne of playing in the KHL and in a different culture, “It was a great experience. I always try to go to new countries with an open mind. It’s different but I don’t mean it in a bad way. It’s an interesting culture, with the language and everything. I don’t know one word, but I still have my plans so I can explain.”
In the weeks leading up to Sunday morning’s news, Rinne played tennis instead of doing on-ice drills because he didn’t want to push himself too much physically. He said he actually learned of the tentative agreement while playing tennis with a friend.
“I was looking at my phone and I started celebrating. My buddy was looking at me like ‘What’s going on there?’” Rinne said.
As of Wednesday morning the only Predators players not back in Nashville are Sergei Kostitsyn and Craig Smith. Teammates believe they will be arriving in town in the next day or two. Milwaukee call-ups could also make their way to Nashville by week’s end.
Patric Hornqvist and Roman Josi returned from Europe, whereas David Legwand returned from his hometown of Detroit, Mich.