The second half of the Nashville Predators’ season officially starts Tuesday.
If form holds, the franchise can expect more first-rate performances from goalie Pekka Rinne.
“What happens, I think — and that’s why I know he’s a great player — is that when the game demands you to be great, he’s a guy that raises his game,” coach Barry Trotz said.
As of the start of play Monday, Rinne was 20-11-4, which made him one of three goalies in the league with at least 20 victories and put him well ahead of Tomas Vokoun’s franchise record of 36 victories in a single season. His 2.61 goals-against average and .917 save percentage, however, were not among the top 15.
Tuesday’s contest at Colorado (8 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee) will be the 42nd of the 82-game season and the first of what figures to be many that will have a direct affect on positioning in the Western Conference standings.
Nashville ended the weekend in sixth place with 48 points, one more than 10th-place Colorado. Ten points separated the top 11 in the West.
Part of the good news for the Predators is that during his NHL career, which is now in its fourth full season, Rinne has been better in the second part of the season than he has during the first.
Broken down month by month, with March and April counted together, his save percentage in January and behind consistently is better than .920 — a figure he has not averaged in any of the preceding three months (October, November and December).
He actually has more losses (13) than wins (12) in October appearances but has won better than 60 percent of his decisions from the start of March through the end of the regular season.
“I feel good, I’m excited,” he said. “I’m, for sure, looking forward to that. Hopefully I can continue that trend.
A month-by-month look at Rinne’s career statistics:
October: 12-9-4, .919 save percentage, 4 shutouts
November: 19-12-4, .916 save percentage, 4 shutouts
December: 19-9-2, .909 save percentage, 3 shutouts
January: 18-12-0, .922 save percentage, 1 shutout
February: 15-9-5, .928 save percentage, 4 shutouts
March-April: 32-14-7, .922 save percentage, 7 shutouts
He has won two of his first three starts this January, although his save percentage in those games is just .886.
“He’s seeing the puck really well, and he’s practicing really well,” Trotz said. “So, from my standpoint, Pekks is a gamer.”
• Colorado is the only Western Conference team Nashville has yet to play this season. The teams will play again Thursday at Bridgestone Arena but will not conclude their season series until the final game of the season, April 7.
The Predators have won five straight over the Avalanche, a streak that began with a 5-3 victory in Colorado on Feb. 4, 2010.
• Shane O’Brien is one of seven players who has appeared in every one of the Avalanche’s games this season. O’Brien played a career-high 80 games in 2010-11, his only season with the Predators.
“I think he’s done a really good job in Colorado,” Trotz said. “He did a really good job for us. In certain areas, we do miss him because he brings a little bit of an intangible.”
• Jerred Smithson, one of four Nashville players who has appeared in every game thus far, did not practice but worked out off the ice. The expectation was that he would play against Colorado.
“It’s nothing serious, just a maintenance day,” Trotz said. “The trainers just felt they’d give him a day.”
• Goalie Anders Lindback was recalled from Milwaukee on Sunday night, four days after he was reassigned in order to get some work.
He played the first two of three games the Admirals had in three days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). He made 30 saves in a 6-3 victory Friday 21 saves in a 4-3 loss Saturday.
“We had him play two games back to back because he hasn’t done that in a long time,” Trotz said. “I think that really challenges you physically and also mentally. … It was really good for him.”