Trotz is undecided about starting goalie for season opener

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 3:49pm

Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz said following Wednesday’s workout that he and his staff will decide Thursday whether Pekka Rinne or Dan Ellis will be the starting goalie in the season-opener.

“I can honestly say this – I have not picked a starting goaltender for Game One,” he said.

He added that the two goalies will be informed of the decision before the team departs for Dallas on Friday afternoon. The Predators and Stars will begin the season 7 p.m. Saturday (Fox Sports Tennessee-Comcast Ch. 28).

Throughout the offseason, Trotz maintained that Rinne was his No. 1 goalie based on performance at the end of the 2008-09 campaign.

The 26-year-old went 29-15-4 in his first full NHL season. He accounted for the team’s final 15 victories and set a franchise record with seven shutouts.

Only Tomas Vokoun ever won more games in a season for the Predators.

However, Rinne allowed 10 of the 16 goals scored against Nashville during the preseason. His goals-against average (3.97) and save percentage (80.0) in those games paled in comparison to Ellis’ (1.61 and 94.4, respectively). His record was 0-2 while Ellis’ was 3-0.

“They were not great games for me – the last three games – but I feel good,” Rinne said. “… There’s not going to be any games that there are going to be easy shots in the beginning. Every game is different. You can’t feel like you know what’s going to happen.

“I’m not happy. Obviously when you go out there you want to win the games.”

Trotz said preseason performance is just one of the factors that will figure into the decision.

He conceded that Ellis had the better preseason of the two, but added that things such as performance history against the Stars as well as “gut feel” will be considered as well.

Ellis made his NHL debut with Dallas in 2003-04. Last season, he was in the nets all four times the Predators played the Stars, including a 3-0 shutout on Dec. 13, 2008 in Dallas. He went 2-2 with a 2.26 goals-against average in those contests and raised his career numbers to 4-3 with a 2.11 GAA against his former franchise.

Dallas is the only Western Conference team Rinne never has faced.

“It might be as simple as saying ‘(Rinne) was the guy at the end of the year last year so (he’s) starting,” Trotz said. “I have not made my mind up yet.”

Briefly

• Defensman Cody Franson was assigned to Milwaukee. Franson played in three preseason games and had four shots with nine penalty minutes and no points.

That left six blue liners on the roster. Forward Wade Belak worked at defense early in training camp and inherited the role of emergency option.

“If we do get in a bind … (Belak) can become (number) six,” Trotz said. “That’s the plan.”

• Forward Steve Sullivan has returned to practice after having missed time with a groin injury. He played in the preseason opener and was scheduled to play two of the other five contests but missed both.

“I was out for 22 months,” Sullivan, who returned to action last season after an extended battle with a back injury, said. “I’m not too worried about it. I still have a whole week of practice.”

• Jordin Tootoo (groin) missed Wednesday’s workout. Tootoo left the ice early on Tuesday but his injury was not considered serious.

Joel Ward (groin) has started to skate on his own, and Colin Wilson (groin) is expected to resume skating later this week.

 • Center Cal O’Reilly cleared waivers and was assigned to Milwaukee. He averaged 74 points for the Admirals over the past two seasons.

“I think that’s terrific news,” Trotz said. “… It gives us some more depth.”

• Veteran defenseman Francis Bouillon signed his one-year $750,000 contract and officially was added to the roster.