When Pekka Rinne starts in goal for the Nashville Predators in their preseason opener Thursday against Carolina (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena) it will be the start of a busy time for the 27-year-old.
He is unchallenged as the team’s No. 1 goalie after having notched 61 victories over the last two seasons and figures to get the bulk of the playing time over the course of the 82-game regular season schedule. Plus, there is a deep competition for the spot of his primary backup.
Rather than see what the others can do, though, coach Barry Trotz said opponents and fans can expect to see a lot of Rinne over the course of the six-game preseason.
“The No, 1 priority is getting (Rinne) ready for the start of the season,” Trotz said. “That trumps who’s going to be the second goalie for us, that’s for sure.
“Of the six exhibition games, I would think he’ll get two whole games and two halves.”
He added that the rest of the playing time would be divided between just two or three others.
Based on last season’s organizational depth chart, 24-year-old Mark Dekanich is the leading candidate to be the NHL backup.
He is the No. 2 on the roster for the game against the Hurricanes and figures to replace Rinne midway through the contest. Behind him are a pair of 2008 draft picks Chet Pickard (first round) and Anders Lindback (seventh round) as well as Jeremy Smith, a second-round choice in 2007.
“All those guys are great guys, good athletes, they’re good goalies” Rinne said. “It will be interesting to see who’s going to play here. … They’re really hungry. It’s good to see they’re battling out there and trying their best every day.
“But, obviously, at the same time I just try to focus on my own job. There’s still a lot of areas to improve to get ready for the season.”
Apparently, he’ll have plenty of time to work on all of those things.
Forwards: Jonas Andersson, Taylor Beck, J.P. Dumont, Blake Geoffrion, Marcel Goc, Patric Hornqvist, Sergei Kostitsyn, Cal O’Reilly, Nick Spaling, Andreas Thuresson, Jordin Tootoo, Kelsey Wilson,
Defensemen: Jonathon Blum, Ryan Ellis, Cody Franson, Teemu Laakso, Ryan Parent Alexander Sulzer
Goalies: Mark Dekanich, Pekka Rinne