Pekka Rinne

Ducks sit atop NHL after spoiling Rinne’s return

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Pekka Rinne is a big part of the reason the Predators have been one of the NHL’s best teams this season, but he couldn’t save them in his return from a knee injury as Nashville suffered a 5-2 loss to Anaheim last night.

The Predators goaltender showed his rust early when he bungled a rebound attempt that led to Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg scoring a shorthanded goal just 3:08 minutes into the contest.

“It wasn’t a great start,” Rinne said, per the Predators’ website. “Obviously, right away I put us behind the eight ball. Originally, I probably felt a little rusty, but after that start, I felt all right. A few unlucky bounces and a couple of tips; not the way that you want to start.”

He finished with 21 saves on 25 shots. At the other end of the ice, Anaheim netminder Frederik Andersen turned aside an incredible 44 of 46 shots.

With that, Anaheim has now claimed eight of its last 10 games to improve to 34-12-6. That gives the Ducks a two-point edge over Nashville and puts them atop the NHL’s standings. Outside of Nashville, Anaheim also has fierce competition for the Presidents’ Trophy in St. Louis and Tampa Bay. That being said, even if the Ducks are successful in finishing with the best record in the NHL, they will still be judged almost exclusively on their playoff performance.

After all, the Ducks have had some great regular seasons over the last couple of years. They just need to demonstrate that they’re ready to carry that into the playoffs.

Related:

Will Nashville ‘go for it’ at trade deadline?

Ducks scratch Getzlaf because of lower-body injury

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Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators has the makings of a great test for two top Western Conference teams, especially with Pekka Rinne returning, but it sounds like Ryan Getzlaf won’t play.

Multiple sources including Thomas Willis of the Predators’ website and the OC Register’s Eric Stephens report that Getzlaf is a late scratch for this contest.

Update: Stephens reports that the Ducks said Getzlaf had been dealing with a lower-body injury that he aggravated during warm-ups. He’s considered day-to-day at the moment.

Goalie nods: Pekka back for Preds

All the latest from the blue paint…

Rinne Returns

Pekka Rinne will start in goal for Nashville — for the first time since Jan. 19 — when the Preds host the Ducks tonight at Bridgestone.

Rinne, the NHL’s wins leader (29), had been playing at a Vezina- and Hart-worthy level prior to suffering a sprained knee three weeks ago, posting a .931 save percentage and 1.96 GAA. While Nashville did well in his absence (Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec combined to go 4-2-2), Rinne’s return will be a massive boost, especially against a Ducks team that’s tied on 72 points with the Preds, but trails in the standings because of the regulation wins tiebreaker.

For Anaheim, Frederik Andersen will get the start in goal.

Elsewhere…

Blues at Sabres: Jake Allen vs. Jhonas Enroth

Isles at Flyers: Jaroslav Halak vs. Steve Mason

Caps at Sens: Braden Holtby vs. Robin Lehner

Kings at Panthers: Roberto Luongo for Florida, Jonathan Quick likely for L.A.

Bolts at Stars: Andrei Vasilevskiy for Tampa Bay, Kari Lehtonen likely for Dallas.

Wings at Avs: Petr Mrazek for Detroit, no word on a Colorado starter.

‘Canes at Coyotes: Cam Ward vs. Mike Smith

Sharks at Canucks: Ryan Miller for Vancouver, Antti Niemi likely for San Jose.

Rinne ‘100 percent,’ will start for Preds in key tilt vs. Ducks

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After missing the last eight games with a knee sprain, Pekka Rinne will be back in goal for Nashville on Thursday when the Preds take on the Ducks in a top-of-the-table clash.

“I feel really good,” Rinne said, per the team website. “I feel 100 percent and feel ready to go. It’s never a good time to be injured, but I’m feeling good.”

Rinne was enjoying a banner campaign prior to getting hurt against Vancouver on Jan. 13. He was — and still is — the NHL’s wins leader (with 29), and currently boasts a 1.96 GAA and .931 save percentage. Those numbers made him not just Nashville’s MVP through the first half of the season, but also put him in the Hart Trophy conversation as league MVP (along with another goalie, Montreal’s Carey Price.)

His first game back, however, will be a stiff test. The Ducks are tied on 72 points with Nashville atop the NHL standings and the last time the two met, Anaheim narrowly came out on top in a 4-3 shootout win — but it was Carter Hutton in goal for Nashville that night, not Rinne.

Will Nashville ‘go for it’ at trade deadline?

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The NHL-leading Nashville Predators — now 4-2-2 since losing Pekka Rinne to injury — don’t seem primed for the plateau some expected, and are firmly in the conversation for Stanley Cup contention.

Which begs the question — will history repeat itself?

From ESPN:

When we spoke with Nashville Predators general manager David Poile last month, he said a top-six forward would be his priority ahead of the March 2 trade deadline.

Just what exactly he will do remains to be seen, but word is the veteran Nashville hockey man is calling around quite a bit.

“David, I think, wants to go for it, that’s the sense I get,” one Eastern Conference team executive told ESPN.com Tuesday.

 Not overly surprising to hear.

During the 2011-12 campaign, Nashville went into the Feb. 27 trade deadline as a top-four team in the Western Conference, with a 36-19-7 record and 79 points. Accordingly, Poile made a bounty of moves to put the Preds over the top: Hal Gill and Andrei Kostitsyn were acquired from Montreal, Paul Gaustad was brought in from Buffalo and Alexander Radulov was shipped over from the KHL.

“We’ve put ourselves in a real good position here,” Poile said after dust settled, per the Nashville City Paper. “[The moves] have certainly given us a chance to play with the big boys this year. We’re done. I’d say we’re real happy. We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish.

“Each one of these players has a role and can add to what I think is already a good team. I think we’ve done a lot. We’ve done as much, if not more, than anybody else.”

Nashville, of course, did not end up playing with the big boys. They flamed out in the second round of the playoffs with a disappointing five-game loss to the Coyotes — a series highlighted (or, lowlighted) by Kostitsyn and Radulov getting suspended for breaking team curfew.

In the end, Poile’s aggression at the deadline backfired. Only Gaustad remains with the team and the Preds flatlined quickly thereafter, missing the next two postseasons.

Which brings us back to the present. Poile’s past moves could be used as a learning lesson… or, a foreshadow of what’s to come. It’s hard to suggest he’ll suddenly get gun-shy, because he’s been traditionally aggressive at the trade deadline well beyond 2012; in ’11, he got Mike Fisher out of Ottawa and, during the 2006-07 season, kicked off the frenzy 12 days early by prying Peter Forsberg out of Philadelphia.

What does the league’s third longest-tenured GM have in store this time around?