Which goalie will win the battle to back up Pekka Rinne in Nashville?

pekkarinneeyeballsopponent.jpgFor the last few days, we’ve rattled off the NHL’s most interesting training battles, including the Nashville Predators’ Central Division. One interesting matchup going into Nashville’s camp is for the job of the club’s backup goalie.

It almost seems like a tradition for the Predators’ No. 2 guy to usurp the top guy for one reason or another. Before Tomas Vokoun became the next great diamond in the rough goalie for the Florida Panthers, he would often play some great hockey for the Predators only to get injured. Current Atlanta Thrashers netminder Chris Mason would then step in and eventually became the top guy … for a little bit.

While Dan Ellis (not with the Tampa Bay Lightning) seemed primed to take the starting role, Pekka Rinne finally seems like the workhorse the Predators have been hoping for. Still, with the consistent history of upheaval at the position, it’s hard not to wonder who could clean things up if he needs a breather or suffers an injury.

Josh Cooper of the Tennessean captured some of the emotions experienced by the Predators most probable in-house options for a No. 2, Chet Pickard and Mark Dekanich.

“We watch practice when it’s not down in our end, but at the same time I can’t control what he is doing,” Dekanich said. “He is a really good goalie, and he is going to make those saves, and I know that, and if I can just worry about my own game, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Dekanich, 24, comes to camp as a slight favorite to win the backup spot behind starter Pekka Rinne – if Nashville elects to stay in-house. General Manager David Poile has indicated that he might bring in a proven backup.

Cooper provided a quick write-up on Dekanich, to give you a little background on the guy who might have the inside track on the backup job.

Dekanich, 24, started for Milwaukee last season and has played two years with the Admirals. In 2009-10, he posted a 2.33 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in 49 games. In 2008-09, Dekanich notched a 2.09 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 30 games.

On the other hand, here is a talent analysis of Pickard (the team’s first round pick in 2008, in which he went 18th overall) from Hockey’s Future.

Pickard’s greatest asset is his mental game, staying very at ease in the net. He plays a butterfly style and uses his size effectively. Pickard covers the net with efficiency and has become proficient in corralling the many pucks that inevitably come into contact with his upper body. He plays his angles well, likes to play the puck.

Here are a few other “tale of the tape” type numbers on Pickard and Dekanich:

With experienced (if flawed) goalies such as Jose Theodore, Ray Emery, Vesa Toskala and Manny Legace still on the imaginary free agency unemployment line, you never know if Nashville GM David Poile might opt to go with a steadier hand behind Rinne. Either way, it should be one of many interesting training camp battles to watch before the season begins.

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    Sounds like Blues will be more aggressive

    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 06:  Head coach Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues watches from the bench during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on January 6, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Blues defeated the Coyotes 6-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    With their former captain now a member of the Boston Bruins and their coach on year-to-year deals, it’s appropriate to say that the St. Louis Blues are in a period of transitions.

    It’s also a convenient choice of words, as it sounds like the Blues are going to change the way they transition on the ice.

    That’s the indication given by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and players like Chris Porter approve.

    “The play in the neutral zone will fit this team great with the speed and the size that they already have in place,” Porter said. “I don’t think it’s a huge adjustment for the guys, I think it’s just a little tweak here or there.”

    Perhaps hiring Mike Yeo had something to do with taking a more modern approach?

    Either way, getting more aggressive makes a lot of sense for the Blues, at least on paper.

    With David Backes and Troy Brouwer out of town, younger and speedier players get to take more of a role. Some Blues fans will probably view this tweak – big or small – as a long time coming.

    Of course, there’s a give-and-take when it comes to situations like these, and becoming more attack-minded sure makes retaining Kevin Shattenkirk that much more important. The underrated blueliner still expects to be moved despite being named an alternate captain, yet you wonder if these changes might prompt GM Doug Armstrong to try to pull some strings to keep him around.

    (Giving Alexander Steen a contract extension means that much less room for the likes of Shattenkirk.)

    Even if the Blues eventually need to part ways with Shattenkirk, there are some other nice assets who can use this change as a catalyst to push this team up another level.

    In an ideal scenario, the Blues would enjoy those improvements and keep Shattenkirk to reap those rewards.

    Update: Clarke MacArthur suffers concussion

    BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 8: Clarke MacArthur #16 of the Ottawa Senators skates with the puck during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center on October 8, 2015 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/ Getty Images)
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    Update: As many feared, Clarke MacArthur suffered a concussion. The Ottawa Senators announced that he will be “evaluated daily.”

    ***

    Rough news for the Ottawa Senators on Sunday: forward Clarke MacArthur needed help off the ice following a big hit during a team scrimmage.

    The hit was delivered by Patrick Sieloff, prompting an immediate response from Bobby Ryan, according to The Hockey News’ Murray Pam.

    MacArthur has been hoping to return to NHL action after some serious concussion issues, so this is a troubling situation. More than a few people wonder if this might end his career.

    Update: Here’s a GIF of the hit.

    Robin Lehner certainly has swagger

    ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  Robin Lehner #40 of the Buffalo Sabres stretches during the first period of a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on February 24, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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    Robin Lehner is a big goalie, and barring possible language barrier issues, sure seems to have a pretty big personality.

    That at least seems to be the case with the Buffalo Sabres’ top guy, who provided the Buffalo News’ John Vogl with a great quote:

    “There’s a lot of pressure on me, and that’s fine. … I know I’m a good goaltender,” Lehner said.

    Hey now.

    As much as the Sabres feel like a work in progress, acquiring Lehner was one of GM Tim Murray’s boldest moves. Murray was able to observe Lehner in Ottawa, and despite some struggles, the big Swede (6-foot-5, 240 lbs.) was sneaky-good in 2015-16.

    Twenty-one games serves as a limited sample size, yet a .924 save percentage seems quite promising. His 107 career regular season games are spread over six seasons, so to some extent, the 25-year-old is still something of an unknown entity.

    If nothing else, it looks like he could provide some Bryzgalovian entertainment.

    Back in March, Ben Scrivens admitted he was happy to avoid a fight with a guy he called a “bit of a psycho.”

    Sounds like a guy to watch.

    Team Europe is happy to play underdog role

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    TORONTO (AP) When the World Cup of Hockey started, Team Europe was not picked as a team to beat.

    In fact, the unique team made up of eight nations outside of the continent’s traditional hockey powers was expected to be out of the best-on-best tournament.

    Team Europe had other plans.

    The blended group of players opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over the U.S. and then beat the Czech Republic in overtime to seal a spot in the semifinals before losing to Canada.

    “I know nobody really expected us to be here right now,” Danish and Detroit Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen said Saturday. “But when you look in the room and go over the team, there’s not a lot of players better than (Anze) Kopitar in this tournament. We got (Marian) Hossa. We got some good guys on the backend and good goaltending.”

    The Europeans will face Sweden on Sunday for a spot in the best-of-three finals against the winner of Saturday night’s Canada-Russia game.

    When Team Europe players have faced Sweden for their countries – Switzerland, Denmark, Slovakia, France, Germany, Slovenia, Austria and Norway – in previous, they didn’t have a legitimate chance to win.

    They do now.

    A veteran group of skaters and a star in Kopitar along with Slovak and New York Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak give them a shot on any sheet of ice.

    “He’s the kind of goalie that almost every night, he gives you a chance to win,” said Nielsen, who played with Halak in New York. “And, he’ll make that save when you need it.”

    Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger said he’ll likely save his rah-rah speeches for another team because this one simply doesn’t need it.

    Krueger began to sense something special was in store for Team Europe nearly a year ago when several candidates to be on the team met when Boston and the New York Islanders played. When the entire group gathered nearly three weeks ago in Quebec, Krueger got even more excited about the natural chemistry the team already had from their shared experiences.

    “We didn’t have to do a lot of extra team-building,” Krueger said. “It just happened with a combination of leadership and personalities and character and will – of pure will – of these eight nations that are forever underdogs, forever going home when the final four is staged, forever watching other teams play in finals of best of best. That opportunity has fueled the fire that taken us here.”

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