Rinne's ready for rare fast start by Predators' goalie

Monday, October 4, 2010 at 10:56pm

There’s no danger that Pekka Rinne will strain his arm patting himself on the back following Sunday’s shutout of the Washington Capitals in the Nashville Predators’ preseason finale.

“That was nice preparation for the season, but to be honest that wasn’t the hardest game I’ve played,” Rinne said. “We played really well as a team so (the Capitals) only had a few tough chances.”

Regardless of how easy it was, the performance – and Rinne’s play throughout the entire preseason – was reason for optimism Monday as the Predators began final preparations for Saturday’s regular-season opener against Anaheim.

He allowed three goals in 181 minutes of work (three full games) and stopped 95.7 percent of the shots he faced.

One constant in recent years has been the fact that Nashville’s starting goalie has started slowly. For a franchise often ill equipped to win high-scoring affairs, that has been a dangerous trend.

Over the past three seasons the Predators have gone a combined 15-17-2 in October.

“It’s real important that you get off to a good start,” coach Barry Trotz said. “You look at Colorado last year and they were (10-1-2). You take away their first 12 or 13 games of the season and they wouldn’t have made the playoffs. It can do a lot of good.

“… If you lose one game you have to win the next one. That’s how you have to look at it.”

Rinne opened last season with three straight losses and did not win a game until nearly two full weeks into the season. He allowed three goals or more in four of his first five appearances.

The previous season Dan Ellis went 4-4-1 at the start and the one before that Chris Mason was 2-7-0 prior to November.

The last time Nashville got off to a fast start was 2006-07, when they began 7-3-1 in October led by goalie Tomas Vokoun. That also was the last time before this year they had the same No. 1 at the start of consecutive seasons.

“Absolutely, that’s my goal,” Rinne said. “It’s really important to have a good start. Personally, after last year, that was one of the things I tried to pay attention to – try to have a good start. Obviously, after that it’s a lot easier to move on and keep focusing on your game.

“Hopefully I learned something from last year. I try not to think about it too much, though.”

Briefly

• Alexander Sulzer earned the spot as the seventh defenseman over Aaron Johnson, who cleared waivers Monday and will be reassigned to Milwaukee later in the week.

“(Johnson) came in here and did a good job,” Trotz said. “He’s a really upbeat person. … He continues to keep his chin up through the ups and downs of being in that seventh (defenseman) role for a couple teams. He just wants to play and get better. He’s not sour going up or down.”

• Forward Sergei Kostitsyn, another free agent acquisition this offseason, is doubtful for the opener because of a broken toe.

“I’m really happy with Sergei,” Trotz said. “… He’s shown that he can play in different roles. He actually took a shot (off the foot) penalty killing, blocking a shot in practice. It takes courage to do that, and it takes commitment. I think he showed both of those.”

Martin Erat sat out Monday’s workout with a back strain, which is not expected to be a continuing issue. Jamie Lundmark, another forward, is on the mend from a groin injury.