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Back to the grind for Rinne

by Eric Gilmore
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Two days ago, Nashville's Pekka Rinne recorded what Predators coach Barry Trotz called a goalie's hat trick. He signed a seven-year, $49 million contract, celebrated his 29th birthday and shut out the Phoenix Coyotes 3-0.

It was a day Rinne said he'll never forget, but now he's back to the regular NHL grind, and he'll be back on the ice Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks.

"I think now it's back to normal, back to our routines," Rinne said Saturday morning, outside of the Predators' dressing room at HP Pavilion, as some of his teammates went through an optional skate. "But yeah, the other day was an amazing day. A lot of things happened for me in one day. It was a special day."

Rinne was in goal on Nov. 25 when the Sharks beat the Preds 3-1 in Nashville. He faced 35 shots and gave up two goals, one to Joe Pavelski and one to Logan Couture.

"They are a really good team," Rinne said. "It's going to be a good challenge for us. Last time we played a good game, actually. It was a good matchup. We usually play pretty good games against these guys. It's a good challenge for us. They have a lot of firepower up front. Same thing on the blue line, skilled guys. With these guys you always have to be focused and ready and alert. All the lines, they can score. It's going to be a fun game."

Rinne has had three shutouts in his past six games, giving him 23 for his career.

"To me, obviously it feels great always to get a shutout," Rinne said. "But to me, those are also kind of team accomplishments. Like last game against Phoenix, there were a couple times when I was out of position and our 'D' blocked a shot and saved a sure goal for me that otherwise would have been in the back of my net. Those things, a lot of time you need everybody. It's not only me. It's nice, though."

Trotz said the way Rinne handled the excitement and pressure Thursday that came with signing his mega-deal showed "the maturity" of his goaltender.

"Last year when (Rinne) was nominated for the Vezina , we all said to ourselves, 'Now our little secret's out,'" Trotz said. "We've known how good he is, and coaches, especially in the Western Conference, know how good he is. I think it's just a little bit of the rest of the hockey world didn't know how good he is."

Nashville defenseman Kevin Klein, who took a puck off an ankle Thursday night against Phoenix, was not on the ice during Saturday morning's optional skate. Trotz said it will be a game-time decision whether Klein plays against the Sharks.

Forward Sergei Kostitsyn skated Saturday morning but will also be a game-time decision, Trotz said. He returned Thursday against Phoenix after missing two games with a lower-body injury.
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