Patric Hornqvist finally can relax. Pekka Rinne figures to be on edge.
Both are ready to play again for the Nashville Predators.
Rinne, the team’s No. 1 goalie, and Hornqvist, the second-leading goal scorer, took part in an optional workout Monday morning with slightly more than half of the players on the active roster and did so with a firm focus on the next game, Wednesday at Chicago.
“We’ve had kind of a busy schedule so we haven’t had too many team practices,” Rinne said. “It’s good to get a couple team practices under my belt.”
It was an important, albeit, expected step for the two. Goalie Mark Dekanich and forward Steve Begin, who had been recalled to replace Rinne and Hornqvist, respectively, both were reassigned to Milwaukee following Saturday’s 6-1 loss to Los Angeles.
For Hornqvist, who missed the last three games with an upper body injury, the worst part of dealing with an injury is behind him.
“I’m actually more nervous to be out of the game,” he said “At the end of the Sharks’ game there [on Dec. 15] we were climbing the walls down there [in the locker room].”
For Rinne, the jitters will come once he returns to the ice.
“Once you get back there, you get a little bit nervous,” he said. “The biggest thing is just to be relaxed and be confident and do what you’ve been doing for most of your life. The biggest thing is just to get the nerves out and get [back to] the timing of the game and the flow of the game.”
Rinne missed three games earlier in the season with a knee injury and then lost six of the first seven (two in overtime) once he returned to action. At the time he sustained this latest injury – also to his knee – he had won two straight and six out of his last 10.
Hornqvist had his first multi-goal game of the season Dec. 13 against the New York Islanders but also sustained his injury in that one. He has not played since.
“It’s already my second injury for this year,” Rinne said. “I’ve been fortunate that both have been kind of short-term. … I’m fortunate that I didn’t have any setbacks and everything went well and smoothly. … I think I’m fortunate to get back this early.”
Hornqvist became the 12th different Nashville player to miss time this season with an injury. Half of those 12 were back after three games or fewer.
The other half have had longer absences. Among those are David Legwand, who has missed 14 of the last 15 with a lower body injury and Matthew Lombardi, who has missed 30 with a concussion.
Legwand was on the ice briefly Monday but soon went off and went to the locker room
Despite that, they were one of only five Western Conference teams with at least 40 points prior to Monday’s games and their 8-1-1 record in their last 10 was tied for the best overall in the NHL.
“We’ve had guys injured the whole season, it feels like,” Hornqvist said. “Everybody played hard for each other. That’s our strength in here. It doesn’t matter who’s in and who’s out. We have a bunch of guys who will work every night and battle for 60 minutes.
“ … It always sucks to be injured, and I’m glad I’m back.”