Milwaukee is one stop one rookie Preds’ goalie won’t make

Friday, September 11, 2009 at 3:03am
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Rookie goalie Chet Pickard / Mike Strasinger for The City Paper

Chet Pickard insists he was not implying anything with his choice of protective gear Friday.

One of two goalies at the Nashville Predators’ rookie camp, Pickard had new pads and gloves, which primarily were white, trimmed with black and light blue.

It just so happens that his equipment fits perfectly with the color scheme of Nashville’s AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals.

“I’m not going to be that cocky or anything like that,” he said. “It’s just what (the manufacturer) sent me.”

Pickard stresses he has a clear understanding of the franchise’s organizational depth chart. As such, he is well aware of the fact that he and the other net-minder on the current 20-man rookie roster, Jeremy Smith, effectively are in competition for one spot with Milwaukee.

The Predators are set with two NHL goalies, Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis. Mark Dekanich, a fifth-round draft choice in 2006, holds one of the two spots with the Admirals after he went 15-10-2 with a 2.09 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage for them last season, his first as a professional.

That means either Pickard or Smith — both are first-year professionals — will start the season in Milwaukee while the other goes to Cincinnati of the East Coast Hockey League.

“It’s about competition, it’s about putting the guys in the best position to succeed and what’s going to be right for them,” assistant general manager Paul Fenton said. “… We’ll play it by ear. We’ll see how it’s going. I don’t assume anybody will be in one place permanently.

“But those two, as young goaltenders, they’re going to have some growing pains and they’re going to be battling it out to see who’s going to be playing in Milwaukee.”

Pickard was the second of Nashville’s two first-round picks in 2008 (18th overall). He was a two-time Goaltender of the Year in the Western Hockey League and the top goalie for all of Canadian junior hockey in 2008. He also was the backup for Tem Canada at last year’s World Junior Championships.

Smith was a second-round choice (54th overall) in 2007, when he was the top-ranked North American goaltender, according to the NHL’s Central Scouting Service. He was a member of the 2007-08 United States junior national team.

“They’re a little bit different,” Fenton said. “(Pickard) is a little bit more of a positional, great angle player who takes away time and space. … (Smith) is more of a reaction goalie who relies on his reflexes and his anticipation.”

One of the deciding factors in regard to who ends up at Milwaukee could be who plays better next week in Atlanta. It is logical to expect that they will split the workload for rookie scrimmages with Atlanta (Monday and Tuesday at Duluth, Goergia) either with one full game apiece or dividing the time almost equally in both contests.

“Rinne and Ellis are the go-to guys for Nashville — they have two well-established guys,” Smith said. “For me, I’m just going in here to play my best hockey … and try to stop every puck that comes at me. Nashville will decide where I end up. Hopefully it will be in the (AHL).

“… It doesn’t matter what happens. You always have to work hard, night-in and night-out. We’ll see what happens.”

And once the season starts we’ll see whether either one’s pads clash with his uniform.

Briefly

The Predators, in conjunction with the American Red Cross, will conduct a blood drive Sept. 19, prior to their preseason game with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Anyone who donates blood from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Sommet Center that day will receive a ticket to that night’s contest.

Also, the ice surface at the Sommet Center will be open to donors for a free skate from 1-3 p.m. Those who wish to take part in the open skate must bring their own skates.

Nashville and Columbus will play at 7 p.m.