Finally, some good news on the injury front for the Predators: Goaltender Pekka Rinne, who sat out three weeks with a sprained knee, is set to return to action on Thursday when Nashville takes on the Ducks.
Rinne, who has been skating with the team since Jan. 29, pronounced himself ready to go on Wednesday morning.
“I feel really good,” Rinne said on the team’s website. “I feel 100% and feel ready to go. It’s never a good time to be injured, but I’m feeling good.”
He’s coming back to a team that managed to do surprisingly well without him. The Preds held a four-point advantage in the Central Division, and were two up on Anaheim for the conference lead, when Rinne went down. The Ducks caught up during his absence, and the Blues pulled to within two points, but Nashville didn’t break stride and is tied for the top spot in the Western Conference.
The team’s continued success might hurt Rinne’s MVP candidacy, but he still ranks among the favorites for the Hart Trophy heading down the stretch. Despite the long spell on the sidelines, Rinne remains the NHL’s leader in wins with 29. His other key stats, a 1.96 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage, both rank second. Solid numbers, but he clearly lost momentum during his absence to Canadiens goalie Carey Price. With Rinne back, the battle between those two should be one of the key storylines of the stretch run.