Heading into Friday night’s match-up in Nashville against the Predators, much of the talk has been and will continue to be about Barry Trotz facing the team he helped build and coached since 1997.
But another story, which will have a far more impactful role during the game, will be the loss of Nashville’s goalie, Pekka Rinne.
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Pekka Rinne, who is first in the NHL in goals allowed per game at just 1.96, suffered a right knee sprain and will miss at least 3-to-5 weeks. To date, Rinne has 29 wins on the season, which also ranks first in the league and is five more than second-place Frederik Andersen of Anaheim. His save percentage of .931 is third in the NHL, and he’s also second in the league in minutes played with 2,230 total time on the ice.
To put that into perspective, Braden Holtby is seventh in the NHL in goals allowed per game at 2.17, sixth in wins at 22, eighth in save percentage at .924 and third in TOI with 2,208:30.
The Predators will turn to Carter Hutton to fill the void left by Rinne’s injury.
Hutton, who has played in six games this season (started in five of those), is 0-3-2 on the season, as he’s allowed 2.60 goals per game with a save percentage of .905 in those games.
Last season, Hutton started 34 games (made an appearance in 40 total) for Trotz and the Predators and went 20-11-4.
Being able to avoid a Pekka Rinne for a Carter Hutton bodes well for Trotz’s current team. The Capitals are fourth in the NHL in the power play at 23.6 percent, and being able to face a goalie who doesn’t see regular ice time is certainly a plus.
Another thing the Caps have going for them is that they’ve tallied at least one point in 17 of their 18 games since the start of December.
Even without Rinne, winning in Nashville will be no easy task.
The Predators sit atop the Western Conference standings with 62 points and a 29-9-4 record. They’re 7-1-2 in their last 10 games and are winners of four straight.
But if there’s one man who knows Nashville inside-and-out, it’s Trotz, and he happens to be on the opposing bench tonight.