Not even 10 seconds into his first game of the preseason, Pekka Rinne and his surgically-repaired hip were put to the test. While playing the puck behind the net, the Nashville Predators goaltender got tangled up with New York Islanders forward Peter Regin and fell to the ice.
“My heart jumped about seven seconds into the game,” Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz said after the Predators beat the Islanders, 2-0, in front of a crowd of 15,502 at Bridgestone Arena.
“You always have to expect the unexpected,” Rinne said of the play. “It was a good test right away. It didn’t hurt me at all.”
Rinne played the first two periods of the game before yielding to Carter Hutton for the third. Rinne didn’t have to stop too many scoring chances in his return from hip surgery, only seeing 13 shots on goal in 40 minutes of action. He and Hutton teamed up to pick up the shutout on a total of 25 shots against.
“That was the main thing, just to get some real action,” Rinne said. “Just playing the puck and talking to [defensemen], having that intensity that you miss in practice – for sure it was a big help to get one game underneath me even though it wasn’t busy for me.”
It’s been a long road to recovery for Rinne, who underwent the surgery on May 9 and returned to practice as training camp commenced. After being held out of the team’s first three preseason games, Trotz said Rinne was antsy to play.
“I don’t think he was nervous [internally] – just anxious. He didn’t know how the game was going to go; it was probably more of that since it’s been a while since he has played,” the coach said.
Rinne got the victory thanks to some offensive support in the second period. Gabriel Bourque buried a feed from Filip Forsberg 3:07 into the middle frame, and Austin Watson extended the lead five minutes later with a goal of his own. Rookie defenseman Seth Jones was also impressive in 23:26 of ice time.
But the player elected as the game’s first star was Rinne, who said it was the plan heading into the game for him to play 40 minutes – a frequent occurrence for goaltenders in the preseason. With three more preseason contests coming up this week, Rinne will likely get a full game in before the Oct. 3 season opener in St. Louis.
“For sure it was a different kind of summer. At the same time you just try to make the most of it. I feel like the last month or so has been really good for me,” Rinne said. “I’m sure I’ll be better than 100 percent when the season starts.”