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Stanley Cup Final

Pekka Rinne not saying if he will start Game 3 of Cup Final

He or Juuse Saros will play against Penguins with Nashville at home trailing series

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

NASHVILLE -- Pekka Rinne said Friday he knows which goaltender will start for the Nashville Predators in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

What Rinne won't say is whether it's him.

"I'm going to keep it a secret," he said after practice Friday.

Despite that, signs point to Rinne returning to the net after getting pulled 3:28 into the third period of a 4-1, Game 2 loss Wednesday. Rinne spoke like he is preparing to play and is eager to rebound.

Nashville trails the best-of-7 series 2-0, and Rinne has allowed eight goals.

 

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"The last two games haven't gone the way I wanted them to go, and I know the stakes are high, it's [the Final] and everything, but I'm still feeling confident," Rinne said. "I feel comfortable out there and do the same preparations as I always do before the games."

Predators coach Peter Laviolette declined for the third day in a row to name his Game 3 goaltender -- "We don't talk about lineup decisions" -- but a clue might have come from backup Juuse Saros, who said he hasn't been told if he or Rinne will start.

"I don't know anything about that," Saros said.

Laviolette said Thursday the goalies know who will start. If it were Saros, Laviolette probably would have told the 22-year-old rookie, whose relief appearance in Game 2 was his Stanley Cup Playoff debut.

Saros, like the rest of the Predators, expressed confidence that Rinne will return to the form that helped them get this far.

"I feel like he's the same Pekka that he's been the whole season, the whole playoffs," Saros said. "So no difference in that."

Rinne, 34, was 12-4 with a 1.70 goals-against average, .941 save percentage and two shutouts in the first three rounds of the playoffs, but gave up eight goals on 36 shots for a .778 save percentage in the first two games against the Penguins. He was the victim of some bad luck, with two goals bouncing in off a teammate.

Video: Preds' game plan after two bad starts from Rinne

He also appeared to struggle with his positioning at times in Game 2. Rinne left a small opening between his glove and left thigh that allowed Jake Guentzel's shot at the right post to sneak in for the tying goal in the first period and later gave up a big rebound on Bryan Rust's harmless-looking shot from the right circle that led to Guentzel's game-winner 10 seconds into the third period.

Rinne conceded there are some areas he needs to clean up, but the most important thing he needs to do is move on mentally and not let what went wrong in Game 2 carry over into Game 3.

"You just do your best to put it behind you," Rinne said. "Of course, you think about things and you go through the games and different situations and you try to be better and learn from it and be ready for the next one. But that's the mindset. I think you think about this as an opportunity and as a chance to regroup and get back to playing at the level where I feel I'm able to play."

Rinne's 7-1 record, 1.54 GAA and .947 save percentage at Bridgestone Arena this postseason support the Predators' belief.

"He's one of the best goaltenders in the League, so he's the last of our worries, that's for sure," defenseman P.K. Subban said. "When the occasion comes and he's got to step up he's always there, so there's no question he'll be there." 

The Predators have played well and controlled play for long stretches but they've also had numerous breakdowns that have led to odd-man rushes and quality scoring chances against them.

"[Pekka] knows that it's not him. It's what we're doing," defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "We're giving up two 2-on-1s back to back, and we're giving up chances that we can't be giving up against a team like this. We can't expect him to make every save whether they have a ton of shots or little shots. It doesn't matter. It's the quality of the chances, and I think we need to do a better job as a group to limit those.

"[Rinne] knows and we'll add our two cents to, I guess, just to have him know we support him."

Rinne said he appreciates that support but scoffed at the notion he needed cheering up, saying, "Every question [from the media] is like somebody died or something."

"I don't want to sit here and talk about all the time how I'm going to get back," he said. "I mean, it's been a great playoff run. It's been a great playoff season."

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