-- At 6-foot-6, goalie Anders Lindback
holds the distinct honor of being the tallest player ever drafted by the Nashville Predators
But don't think for a second the 22-year-old doesn't exhibit the little things necessary to becoming an effective thorn in the side of opposing shooters.
"I always talk about two different kinds of goalies," Predators goalie coach Mitch Korn told NHL.com. "Years ago, the small goalies were quick and agile and the big goalies were, in general, slower and more awkward. But what we're seeing now in goalies like Anders and Pekka (Rinne, who's 6-foot-5) is that the bigger goalies are just as agile as the small guys were and are. That's why we're seeing more big guys in goal today. It's still about skill, but Anders' got little-guy's skill with a big body. When you put those two together, it's pretty special."
Indeed, the left-handed Lindback, a seventh-round gem from the 2008 Entry Draft, has certainly taken the League by storm. It's tough to even tell that the native of Gavle, Sweden, is in his first North American season following two seasons as a starter in the Swedish Elite League.
The fact Lindback suffers from a rare illness -- Adult Still's disease -- is perhaps the biggest reason he was still available so late in the draft. The disease, for which Lindback needs injections each day, is marked by high fevers, rash, and joint pain. It could also lead to long-term arthritis.
"Ever since I started the medication I haven't had a problem for three years now," Lindback said. "It came about in the middle of my season (in 2007-08) when I played second league in Sweden (for Almtuna). I got really bad high fevers, couldn't move really well and lost a lot of weight. It was tough and it took a while to find the right medication, but it's been working good."
Good is an understatement. Lindback has proven to be a pretty admirable fill-in while Rinne has been recovering from knee surgery. Not only is he first among rookies in goals-against average (2.08), save percentage (.931) and shutouts (2), but he's 6-0-1 in the month of December with a 1.42 GAA and 949 save percentage.
He went head-to-head at Prudential Center on Friday against one of his boyhood idols in New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur
, and stopped 15 shots in a 3-1 victory.
"He was a big idol for me growing up and still is," Lindback said. "He's an unbelievable goaltender and always has been. Even his backup, Johan Hedberg
. I went to his goalie schools in Sweden as a kid. So I'm a big fan of Johan, too."
Korn admits having a good feeling about Lindback the first time he saw him at rookie camp in July 2008.
"After that first look at him, we watched video and we felt good about him then," Korn said. "I felt strongly then that he was an excellent prospect. When he came over for training camp this year, he had a great camp and I guess I was surprised how ready he was. But he's done a great job."
Lindback recently posted consecutive road shutouts over Florida (22 saves) and the New York Islanders
(28 saves) and went 128:47 -- or six-plus periods -- without allowing a goal until San Jose ended that streak 7:25 into the first period Wednesday.
He's certainly answered all questions and earned the absolute confidence of his teammates and the entire Nashville coaching staff.
"The only time there was doubt, honestly, was when we entered training camp," Korn said. "Some of our veterans were concerned that we had two young people, Anders and Mark Dekanich
, competing for the No. 2 spot. Some of our experienced guys were concerned that we didn't have someone with NHL experience and I can understand that. But I think that Anders has earned the respect of everyone in the room."
Korn, who credited Nashville European scout Lucas Bergman for discovering Lindback in Sweden, feels the multi-media explosion over the internet certainly benefits those gifted goalies overseas looking to make it big.
"Right now, there is virtually no distance between here and Sweden," Korn said. "It's a satellite dish away. I'm sure that, while growing up, these young guys have had at their disposal what guys before them didn't have. The have the ability to watch an enormous amount of North American hockey and see what's happening in the NHL. The world's a very small place now, when before, it was a very large place."
"He's solid at everything, so there isn't that glaring a weakness that, once found, can be exploited," Korn added. "He's pretty solid from the top to the bottom of his game."
Lindback feels his coaches in Sweden prepared him well for the North American game.
"I think both my goalie coaches in Sweden did a good job preparing me and telling me what drills I needed to work on so that when I got over here I could watch Pekka and learn even more," Lindback said. "I think the fact the rink is smaller makes it a bit easier to be focused all the time because you know the shots can come from everywhere. I think that's big … it makes it easier to be focused since it's so much tighter and the players are that much better."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale