NEW YORK -- The Nashville Predators will be without two of their most important players when they face the New York Rangers tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSP, TSN2).
The Predators will give Pekka Rinne a rest, instead starting backup goaltender Anders Lindback. They also will be without defenseman Ryan Suter, who aggravated an upper-body injury during the Predators' 3-1 win against the Islanders on Monday afternoon.
Rinne is coming off a brilliant 36-save performance on Monday, but coach Barry Trotz is trying to see the big picture with his Vezina-worthy goaltender.
"We're going to have to play Lindy a little bit here," Trotz said of Lindback. "We really looked at the schedule, and we just played a back to back. This will probably be more of the norm in the second half of the season."
Including tonight's game at Madison Square Garden, the Predators have five back-to-backs over the rest of the season. Rinne has started 41 of Nashville's 45 games this season.
Suter played just 7:04 on Monday and following the game was deemed doubtful for today's contest. He did not take part in the team's optional practice this morning.
The 26-year-old Suter is second in the NHL in average ice time per game at 26:30, which is 51 seconds fewer than what League-leader Dan Girardi of the Rangers averages. Trotz said it will have to be a group effort in replacing Suter against the Rangers.
"Everybody has to make sure they're diligent defensively as a five-man group," Trotz said. "You have to pay attention to the details of the game. I'll have to spread around some of those minutes."
Trotz said he can't see how he can get more minutes for Shea Weber, who already plays 26:13 per game, but he will disperse Suter's minutes to defensemen Jack Hillen and Kevin Klein.
One piece of good news for the Predators is the return of forward Craig Smith, who was feeling under the weather Monday and did not play. The rookie has 9 goals and 26 points in 43 games this season.
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