Pekka Rinne has the right mindset. Except that he’s one of the few Nashville Predators who does not need it at the moment.
“For myself, I haven’t been in the NHL long enough,” he said. “I don’t take for granted being here. You play in the NHL and it’s the best league in the world. Any given night you go out there and try to give your best. It doesn’t matter what the situation. That’s the mindset you try to have to the end.
“There’s days when you feel disappointed and it can be tough but you can’t feel sorry for yourself. You have to be a good pro.”
The 30-year-old has proven himself over four full NHL seasons and the bulk of this one. His play has been validated by the fact that he is a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist and his approach earned him a seven-year, $49 million contract that has six years remaining.
The ones with something to prove are the increasing number of youngsters who populate the Nashville dressing room.
As of yet, no one has questioned their attitude or approach. The results, however, are a different matter.
Daniel Bang became the second forward in as many games to make his NHL debut, and the Predators’ losing streak reached four games Tuesday with a 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville has been held scoreless in back-to-back home games (both 1-0) and eight times overall, the most since 2002-03.
The influx of prospects has been fueled by injuries to veteran forwards, the latest is Brandon Yip who sat out against the Blues because of a lower body injury.
“I can’t fault the effort of our team,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We were one puck away, and you get one bounce to just go your way you’re right there. We’re playing really hard and that’s what you want.
“We know we’re not in a great situation right now with the number of people we’ve got called up.”
In fairness, the newcomers, including 2010 first-round pick Austin Watson who made his NHL debut Sunday at Chicago, got a lesson in real NHL defense from the Blues, who are tied for second in the Western Conference for fewest goals allowed.
Already sound in terms of their system, they bolstered their blue line at the trade deadline with the acquisitions of Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold. St. Louis’ last loss was March 28.
“The Blues have won five in a row and they’ve only given up five goals,” Trotz said. “They’re as strong defensively as you’re going to find in the National Hockey League. They’ve bolstered their back end with a few veteran players.”
They got all the offense they needed with 3:23 to play in the second period when Alexander Steen beat Rinne between the pads with a shot from the left boards. The latest victory lifted them to sixth place in the Western Conference.
“We probably could have had another couple [goals],” Steen said. “Fortunately, one was enough. … We did, I thought, what we needed to get points and now we move forward.”
The Predators’ idea of moving forward at this point is to look to the long-term future and hope that the experience the young players get now will pay dividends somewhere down the road.
Right now, after all, none of them — or most of the veterans, for that matter — have produced the results anyone wants to see.
“I’m happy and proud that we’re still working so hard,” Rinne said. “We’re still giving everything we’ve got right now but it’s hard, and goals are hard to come by right now. Obviously, I wish that things could be a little bit smoother and that we could give ourselves a chance … but, obviously, now [any chance to make the playoffs] is pretty much gone.
“It is tough when you prepare for the season and you are in a situation like this.”
It is also, however, part of life in the NHL.