Fresh off his performance for Team Finland in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, goaltender Pekka Rinne made his preseason debut for the Nashville Predators in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at home on Tuesday.
His performance got off to a rather unceremonious start, as Rinne gave up a goal to Oliver Bjorkstrand on the very first shot he faced in the opening minutes of the game. After that, he settled down, stopping 20 of the 23 shots he faced.
“They got the first goal, it wasn’t great,” he said. “I don’t know how it got past me. It wasn’t a great goal but I thought that we battled back pretty well, gave up one goal and one penalty kill and their power play scored one goal, but it was a good comeback no matter what. I thought that in those two periods we played really strong and had the puck consistently, had more chances and more quality chances and more shots.”
Despite having the World Cup experience, Rinne thought he still wasn’t in full regular season mode.
“I’m sure we’ll talk with coaches, but I still have some work to do,” he said. “It was good to get a full game under my belt for sure. I felt pretty good and as the game went along, I felt better.”
Head coach Peter Laviolette spoke highly of Rinne’s performance, and thought he put together a solid game, especially late in the game.
“He made some terrific saves out there,” Laviolette said. “In that last 22 minutes, I thought he was outstanding and did some great things.”
Normally, Rinne would be coming into training camp without having played in an NHL-caliber hockey game since the Spring. This season, with the World Cup of Hockey behind him, he comes in with a few weeks of training camp and multiple games against some of the best NHL talent.
That fact was not lost on Laviolette.
“Their training camps started maybe three weeks to a month ago,” he said. “They were on the ice working out with their countries and some of the best players in the world. The talent was terrific at the World Cup. You put the best players on the ice, you get the best of the best.”
Rinne thought the biggest advantage to playing in the World Cup was the ability to come back to Nashville ready to roll.
“I consider it a jump-start for the guys who played in the World Cup,” Rinne said. “I started skating a lot earlier than usual, and I think that was good for me. Obviously, it wasn’t the result we wanted as a team, but it was a great experience and I think, hopefully, it’s going to help me and help some other guys who played in the World Cup. Hopefully it’s going to help us out in the beginning of the season.”
Laviolette also said that those players that played in the World Cup, including Rinne, Mattias Ekholm and Roman Josi, are approaching training camp a little differently.
“I think Mattias Ekholm said it best that he’s in midseason form,” Laviolette said. “These guys are ready to start the season now. I think training camp for those guys isn’t so much about shaking off the rust and getting themselves conditioned. It’s more about getting acclimated again to the system and what we’re trying to do here.”
The Predators conclude the preseason on Saturday, October 8 on the road against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 PM central.