Fun and games finished, Rinne focuses only on a full game

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 11:24pm

Pekka Rinne spent some time away from the game following the Nashville Predators’ loss in the second round of the 2011 NHL playoffs.

He passed the time playing games.

Back home in Finland, the Naashville netminder player a lot of soccer and tennis. The latter has become something of a rite of spring for him and some of his friends, who stage annual tournaments for bragging rights. Not surprisingly, Rinne is most comfortable at the net.

“That’s my bread-and-butter — serve and volley,” he said. “I love tennis. We usually have like 12 guys [for tournaments]. I’ve been in a couple finals but I always lost.

“There’s one really good player.”

With three contests remaining in the preseason — the first of them against Washington, 7 p.m. Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena — Rinne now can focus on playing an entire hockey game.

“He’s going to play a couple of full games here,” coach Barry Trotz said.

If all goes according to plan, he ought to play from start to finish in two of those remaining three. Things, of course, do not always going according to plan.

Rinne was expected to see his longest action thus far — two full periods — Saturday against Winnipeg but spent fewer than 15 minutes between the pipes before a shot off the mask left him bleeding from above his right eye.

A 60-minute effort is the last step for any goalie in preparation for a season.

“I think there’s going to be a couple [full] games before the season starts,” Rinne said. “It’ll be in those last couple games before the season starts just to get that game conditioning and stuff like that, just to get ready and get going.”

In his limited work thus far, Rinne looks to be going about as well as he was last season, when he was a Vezina Trophy (top goalie) finalist.

He has faced 19 shots in two appearances and was credited with the victory against Winnpeg. His 1.33 goals-against average is the best of the five goalies who have played for the Predators, and his 94.7 save percentage is second only to prospect Jeremy Smith (95.2), who up until now has seen the most action of anyone in that group.

In fact, rather than having picked up where he left off it’s almost as if he never stopped playing, which — of course — he did.

“I started training the beginning of June,” he said. “I worked out for a couple of months and then at the end of July, I went on the ice and started skating. I thought it was a good balance this summer. I felt fresh when I went on the ice. When I came here, I felt really good and I was healthy.

“I wanted to make sure I got enough rest when I got back home to Finland. I took about a month off and just had fun spent a lot of time with my family and friends. Obviously, you still play sports but it’s different — you play for fun.”
 

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