Under Pressure: Pekka Rinne

4 Comments

“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Nashville Predators, we pick…Pekka Rinne.

The $49 million netminder is facing a number of questions, so let’s start with the biggest one:

How’s his health?

Rinne, who turns 31 in November, underwent hip arthroscopy during the offseason, a major procedure that sidelined him for nearly four months.

Though he’s yet to fully recover, Rinne insists he’ll “be 100 percent on opening night,” and is keen to put the 2013 campaign behind him, a season he called “so disappointing.”

Which leads to the second question: What happened last year?

While he shouldered his usual heavy workload, playing in 43 of Nashville’s 48 games, the lanky Finn wasn’t nearly as effective as previous seasons. As a result, the Preds missed the playoffs for the first time in four years.

The most startling number was his drop in save percentage. After posting a .923 and .930 in back-to-back years, Rinne finished 26th among NHL netminders last year with a .910.

But that decrease comes with an asterisk. Preds head coach Barry Trotz said Rinne was playing hurt all year, trying to win games in which he was getting little offensive support. What’s more, the club couldn’t rely on backup Chris Mason, who struggled in limited action and is now tending goal in the Italian league.

This leads us to the third pressing question: How much will Rinne need to carry the Preds this year?

Most figure Nashville isn’t going anywhere unless Rinne plays often and plays well, but it’s unclear if the team will reprise Rinne’s 2011-12 workload, when he set league highs in games (73), shots faced (2,153) and finished second in minutes played (4,168).

It’s a lot to ask of someone coming off major hip surgery.

Of course, managing Rinne’s minutes won’t be easy. Nashville’s new backup goalie is 27-year-old Carter Hutton, a former Chicago farmhand with 58 minutes of total NHL experience. It harkens back to when the Preds made Anders Lindback the No. 2 in 2010-11. Prior to getting the gig, Lindback had zero NHL games to his credit.

Lindback did have success in his rookie year, playing in 22 games and posting solid numbers (11-5-2, .915 save percentage, 2.60 GAA). Preds goalie coach Mitch Korn praised the Rinne-Lindback tandem, saying “every good team needs two competent, successful goalies,” adding, “it’s a long season.”

it’s possible Hutton could be in line for a similar workload, especially if Rinne has issues with his hip.

All this said, and as obvious as this sounds, the Preds aren’t going anywhere unless Rinne returns to the form that netted him consecutive Vezina nominations in ’11 and ’12.

Anything less, and it’s probably another year of missing the playoffs.

For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.

Trade: Red Wings send Mike Green to Oilers

Oilers trade for Mike Green Red Wings
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nostalgia seems to be in the air during NHL trade deadline eve. After Ilya Kovalchuk was traded to Washington, the Detroit Red Wings sent defenseman Mike Green to the Edmonton Oilers in a trade on Sunday.

To the Oilers: Mike Green

To the Red Wings: “A conditional pick in 2020 or 2021” plus Kyle Brodziak.

The Oilers opted not to clarify the conditions of said pick, which certainly limits analysis at the moment.

We can, however, ponder how Green might affect the Oilers. So far in 2019-20, the 34-year-old only has three goals and 11 points in 48 games.

That’s a far cry from his days as a near-Norris-winning high-scorer. If the knocks on Green’s game were unfair back then, they feel more accurate now. Consider, for instance, his poor showings by Evolving Hockey’s RAPM Charts:

Mike Green RAPM chart trade to EDM

He’s very limited overall, but as a specialist who can potentially boost the Oilers’ offense? That makes him more interesting. There’s no denying that Ken Holland approves of Green’s game, being that he was his GM in Detroit and now Edmonton.

What do you make of the Oilers’ decision to trade for Mike Green? More to come …

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blues keep heating up, cruise against Wild

1 Comment

After a troubling lull early in 2020, the Blues are heating up again. St. Louis soundly defeated the Wild 4-1 on Sunday, pushing the Blues’ winning streak to four games.

Top Central Division teams pushing Blues

Again, the Blues have been heating up — and they haven’t been given much of a choice. At least, if they want to win the Central. The idle Avs are on a nice roll, while the Stars won their Sunday game.

Blues: 82 points in 63 games played (36-17-10)
Avalanche: 79 points in 61 GP (36-18-7)
Stars: 78 points in 62 GP (36-20-6)

Considering Colorado’s games in hand, it looks like the Central race could end up being close. Managing at least one round of home-ice advantage might come down to grinding out wins like the one the Blues managed on Sunday.

As much as Jake Allen and Jordan Binnington credit the play in front of them, goaltending’s been a considerable factor in the Blues’ success. Marcus Foligno ended Binnington’s shutout streak at 142:51, but the larger point remains that it’s tough to score vs. St. Louis.

Wild get an extra push to sell at trade deadline?

The Wild built a modicum of confidence by winning two games in a row before this one.

Minnesota seemed to put forth a pretty good effort, at least early on. Sunday stands as another game where they may shake their heads at missed opportunities. Minnesota’s man advantage went 0-for-4, and also allowed a shorthanded goal that took any steam out of a comeback bid.

The Wild ended Sunday outside of the West’s top eight with 65 points in 61 games played. While this loss doesn’t condemn them outright, you have to wonder if GM Bill Guerin might be a little bit more willing to sell off another piece or two.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Ducks host Golden Knights on NBCSN

Leave a comment

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and Anaheim Ducks. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Ducks have lost six of their last eight games (2-4-2), and are far off playoff pace in the Western Conference. They’ve scored only 19 goals in their last eight games and their power play is also tied-second worst in the league at 14.7%, only better than the Chicago Blackhawks at 14.1%.

Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins after the 1-0 loss vs. Colorado on Friday night: “We’ve got to keep trying to get pucks to the net. It doesn’t have to be a clean shot on the net. If you watch the highlights every night, there’s a whole lot of dirty goals being scored everywhere. I think we all remember the highlight one from the day, but if you watch all the highlights there’s a lot of dirty goals.”

The Ducks are 12-13-3 at home, earning only 27 points at the Honda Center this season. Anaheim’s 27 home points are tied for the second least in the NHL this season, with only the Detroit Red Wings having less (22).

Vegas acquired Alec Martinez from the Kings on Wednesday, giving up two second round picks (one in 2020, and one in 2021) for the veteran defenseman.

Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer on Martinez: “You can see how smart he is, how composed he is…He made a couple reads in that game where you can tell he’s a veteran presence back there. A young defenseman might have run out of position to chase a situation and he held and recognized and waited.”

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 10 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

WHAT: Vegas Golden Knights at Anaheim Ducks
WHERE: Honda Center
WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 23, 10 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Golden Knights-Ducks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Max PaciorettyWilliam KarlssonMark Stone
Jonathan MarchessaultPaul StastnyReilly Smith
Will CarrierChandler StephensonNicolas Roy
Tomas Nosek – Gage Quinney – Ryan Reaves

Brayden McNabbNate Schmidt
Nick HoldenShea Theodore
Alec Martinez – Zach Whitecloud

Starting goalie: Malcolm Subban

DUCKS
Max JonesRyan GetzlafRickard Rakell
Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueTroy Terry
Devin ShoreSam SteelJakob Silfverberg
Nicolas DeslauriersDerek GrantCarter Rowney

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson
Brendan Guhle – Michael Del Zotto
Jacob LarssonKorbinian Holzer

Starting goalie: John Gibson

John Forslund and Brian Hayward will call the action at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Sunday’s studio coverage on NBCSN will be hosted by Liam McHugh with analysts Keith Jones and Mike Milbury.

Hurricanes recall two goaltenders after losing Reimer, Mrazek

Leave a comment

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes have recalled goaltenders Anton Forsberg and Alex Nedeljkovic from their American Hockey League affiliate after losing two goaltenders to injury and relying on an on-call emergency netminder Saturday night in a victory at Toronto.

The Hurricanes announced the move Sunday. That came after they lost James Reimer and Petr Mrazek to injuries the night before, forcing them to use 42-year-old David Ayres in net to finish the 6-3 win.

The 27-year-old Forsberg has posted a 15-9-2 record with a 2.95 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage in 27 appearances with the Charlotte Checkers this year. The Hurricanes acquired Forsberg in a trade last June.

The 24-year-old Nedeljkovic has posted a 15-10-2 record, 2.51 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage with four shutouts in 28 appearances with the Checkers this year. The Hurricanes selected him in the second round of the 2014 draft.

Ayres will attend Carolina’s home game Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars.

”See you Tuesday, Davey!” the club said on its Twitter account. ”Ayres will be in the building on Tuesday and will be our (at)VectorSecurity Siren Sounder!”

”They’re flying me down to Carolina for their game on Tuesday so I’ll get to spend more time with the guys, which is good,” Ayres said Toronto on Sunday at the Leafs’ practice facility. ”They’re a great team, great organization.”

Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin also announced Tuesday will be ”David Ayres Day” in the city.

The Hurricanes started selling shirts with Ayres’ name and No. 90 after the game. The team says Ayres will get royalties and a portion of the proceeds will go to a kidney foundation in honor of the goaltender, who underwent a kidney transplant in 2004.