NASHVILLE – While the Nashville Predators celebrated good news on Friday in the form of an update on the health of franchise goaltender Pekka Rinne, there still is no timetable for his return as the team readies for three home games in four days, starting Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.
Barry Trotz said rookie Marek Mazanec, who has started six of the past seven games, would start against the Senators but the Nashville coach said after that he would take a day-to-day approach.
Rinne's season was derailed by an E. Coli infection in the hip that he had surgically repaired in the offseason. There is virtually no precedent for a player to return from such an injury so the Predators are taking a cautious approach. The news on Friday was that Rinne, who has not played since Oct. 22, could begin "weight-bearing exercises" but that does not appear to include skating for the moment.
"You're getting down the road for his recovery," Trotz said of Rinne. "I know it's been a long time. The steps are moving forward so absolutely fantastic news. For us, no time frame. It's going to be a day-to-day thing and what he can do and the doctors' protocol … all those type of things but he's going to be able to start training and the rehab process that athletes need to go through to get themselves into condition."
Predators captain Shea Weber said he spoke to Rinne about the news and was glad for it but remains focused on trying to win without the team's star goaltender.
"We know what we have in this room and that's what we have to go with," Weber said. "He's our friend and we support him off the ice. … At the same time this is our team right now and we've got to win some games right now."
Note: Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said on Friday that wing Chris Neil would miss his fourth straight game with a hamstring injury. Neil is getting closer but is not ready yet.
Here are the projected lineups for Saturday night:
Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - Eric Nystrom
Craig Smith - David Legwand - Nick Spaling
Gabriel Bourque - Paul Gaustad - Viktor Stalberg
Matt Hendricks - Matt Cullen - Rich Clune
Roman Josi - Shea Weber
Ryan Ellis - Kevin Klein
Seth Jones - Mattias Ekholm
Scratched: Victor Bartley
Injured: Patric Hornqvist (upper body), Pekka Rinne (hip)
Clarke MacArthur - Kyle Turris - Bobby Ryan
Cory Conacher - Mika Zibanejad - Milan Michalek
Colin Greening - Jason Spezza - Mark Stone
Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Jared Cowen - Erik Karlsson
Marc Methot - Joe Corvo
Chris Phillips - Cody Ceci
Scratched: Matt Kassian, Eric Gryba, Patrick Wiercioch
Out: Chris Neil (hamstring)