Pekka Rinne figured things couldn’t get much worse this season, at least when it comes to shootouts.
“I can’t get wins in shootouts,” he said Saturday following a 2-1 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild in which he made one save in three attempts. “If [teams] want to get a win against us just take it to the shootout. I can’t stop the puck in shootouts.”
The truth is, though, that things already have gotten a little better. And depending on how things go the next two days the upward trend could continue.
Sure, the loss to the Wild was his fifth in seven tries at the tie-breaking procedure. No other goalie has lost more than three thus far this season and Rinne never has lost more than five in a full 82-game season.
Still, one of the two victories was against the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 31 (Nashville 2-1). Coming into the season the Kings were one of three Western Conference teams the Predators had never beaten in a shootout, not counting Colorado, which never has been to a shootout with Nashville.
The only remaining Western Conference teams the Predators have not beaten in shootouts are Vancouver (0-2) and Calgary (0-1). Those same teams are on the schedule the next two days — Vancouver on Thursday (9 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee) and Calgary on Friday (8 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee) as Nashville continues a five-game road trip.
Vancouver leads the NHL having gone to a shootout eight times this season, one more than Nashville, which makes the chances for another one high. Calgary has been only three times but has yet to win one.
It won’t take much, therefore, for Rinne to have a different outlook on things.
“He’s so competitive,” coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s the reason we win a lot of games. He just has to relax, and I know it’s hard when you’re so competitive. I think he’s the big reason we even get points a lot of nights. He’s all about winning and that’s why the frustration level comes out.”
Rinne came into the season having won two-thirds of his career shootouts (21-14) and having stopped 75.9 percent of the shooters he faced. Last season was his worst. He was 4-5 with a .700 save percentage.
Things have gotten worse this year.
“Pekks was lights out at times last year in the shootout,” Trotz said. “We just knew there was no way they were going to score. It’s just about patience and about rhythm and all of that. Pekks has looked so great in games.
“I can tell you this: Pekks is a great goaltender. The responsibility lies a lot on the goaltender but it’s with the shooters too. If they get two we have to get two. We can’t expect that Pekks is going to stop all three. We just have to score more on that.”
• The Predators recalled center Chris Mueller from Milwaukee on Wednesday. The 27-year-old has appeared in 19 games for Nashville over the past two seasons and leads the Admirals with 18 goals this season.
His recall was connected to the fact that center Paul Gaustad did not finish Monday’s game at Dallas because he sustained an upper body injury.