Each 82-game season begins with a Plan A. All NHL teams would love for that plan to run smoothly throughout the course of the six-month adventure, but they know better. You must have Plans B, C, and possibly D, ready if needed.
Certainly, the Predators are having to utilize all available resources to try and maintain their high-performance standards without the services of as many as four star players out of the lineup (Viktor Arvidsson, P.K. Subban, Kyle Turris and Filip Forsberg) over the last month. As Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette has stated, when you lose that much of your firepower, you have "less margin for error."
One thing Nashville has done to try and stem the tide until the lineup is bolstered is to lean heavily on the red-hot Pekka Rinne, who appeared in his 11th consecutive game Thursday in Vancouver. All but one of the games were as a starter. There have been recent concerns raised over potentially overtaxing the veteran. The Predators have benefited in recent years by reducing the 36-year-old Rinne's regular-season workload and using the maturing Juuse Saros more.
Laviolette was asked about this prior to a game against the Canucks on Thursday. The head coach pointed out that while Rinne has played a bunch lately, that because of his injury earlier in the season, "his workload (to this point in the season) hasn't really changed." Let's look at a three-season comparison.
Through 29 games in 2016-17, Rinne posted a record of 12-8-4 through 24 games. In 2017-18, it was a 16-4-3 mark through 23 outings. This season, Rinne is 12-5-1 through 20 games, 19 of which have been starts. Two seasons ago, he finished 31-19-9 in 61 games. In the previous campaign, 42-13-4 in 59 starts.
So despite the recent run, because Rinne was sidelined in October by an injury suffered in Calgary, he is actually on pace for less games played than last season (around 56.) Despite the circumstances that have caused the distribution of Rinne and Saros starts to be altered, in the big picture the Predators are still working with Plan A: Keep Rinne's starts to a level which keeps him fresh for a potential postseason run.
Now the goal will be to re-incorporate Saros into the rotation. After excellent work as a starter during Rinne's absence, the 23-year-old played only three games during the month of November and struggled statistically. However, he happened to be in goal for two of the worst periods the Predators have played all season (the first period in San Jose and the first period in St. Louis on Gold Friday). While his level of play may not have been his best, few if any of the goals he allowed would be considered "soft" or "bad" goals.
The team fully believes and expects that Saros will rise to the occasion over time. Last season, Saros had a similar month of October (three starts, all losses). He rebounded to finish with a .925 save percentage.
So, while the Predators are fighting through a major rash of injuries to talented players (this was certainly not their idea of Plan A), the goaltender workload has so far remained on schedule in the big picture (at least they're still on track with that Plan A).