Anders Lindback admittedly has found it hard to adjust to his role as a backup goaltender.
“It’s a bit different this year, but I’m just trying to learn as much as I can out of it,” Lindback said. “It’s my job to be ready all the time … and do my best to help the team win.”
All in all, he has made it look sort of easy.
In just his first NHL season, he is 5-1-2 with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage, including a 3-2 victory Wednesday at Detroit in his third straight start since Pekka Rinne sustained a knee injury.
Having played as many as 42 games in Sweden’s top professional league and as many as 36 in a lower division in recent years, the fact that he went 19 straight days with no game action last month was a change.
However unique the situation might be to him, his performance thus far is nothing new. Nashville has a history — one that dates back to its first season of competition — of backup goalies stepping up when needed.
The first to do so was Tomas Vokoun, who returns to Bridgestone Arena as a member of the Florida Panthers fresh off a 3-0 shutout of the Washington Capitals on Thursday. He made 36 saves as he improved to 11-10 for the season.
Little more than an afterthought in the team’s first training camp, he started the season as the No. 2 and eventually recorded the first shutout in team history. Several seasons later he played his way into the top spot and by the time he was traded following the 2006-07 season, Vokoun was the most accomplished goaltender in franchise history.
Thursday’s shutout was the 40th of his career, 30 of which came with Nashville.
“The backup goaltender is the best position on the hockey club,” coach Barry Trotz said. “You don’t really need a backup goaltender until he has to play. [Lindback] has come in and played very well in a couple circumstances with [Rinne] getting hurt.”
Lindback has gone 2-0-1 since Rinne was sidelined by a knee injury a week ago. He also was 2-0-1 over a three-game stretch early in the season when Rinne was similarly hobbled.
This time, Rinne is out two-four weeks, which means Lindback can expect plenty of work.
“As soon as you get into it you get a little more comfortable with it and you get your routines going and everything seems to … flow,” he said. “That’s what I used to do back home.”
The Predators drafted him in the seventh round in 2008 after following his first season in Sweden’s second division. Last season he was among the top five in save percentage and was sixth in goals-against average in the Swedish Elite League.
“I think it’s important for any young player, especially a goalie, when you can go and get a little rhythm and you get a little more accustomed to being in there every night,” Trotz said. “We’re finding out more about him and he’s finding out more about his game. He’s a goalie who played a lot of games when he was over in Sweden. … Hopefully he can string some good efforts together we’ll go from there.”
He won’t be the first.