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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