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From The Locker Room: Feb. 14

by Doug Brumley / Nashville Predators
Despite recent shootout losses, Rinne still a fan of the format

The Nashville Predators have been on the losing end of shootouts in two of the club’s past three games, but that hasn’t affected goaltender Pekka Rinne’s opinion of the game-deciding ritual.

“I like them,” Rinne says. “I think it’s fun. I used to think that it’s not a bad thing to have a tie after 65 minutes; it used to be part of the game. Nowadays, I’ve personally learned to like those shootouts and I think it’s exciting for the fans, for sure. I think it’s a nice way to end the game.”

The entertaining event, which the league instituted in 2005 to decide games that remained tied after a five-minute overtime period, has been relatively good to the Predators. Nashville has 38 wins and 29 losses all-time, and has won more shootouts than it lost in five of six seasons (2007-08 being the only exception at three wins, five losses).

So far in the 2011-12 campaign, the team stands even in shootouts: three wins and three losses. While the Predators gain a point in the league standings for each of those extra-time games, failing to capitalize on the additional available point with a shootout win has been at times as disheartening as a regulation loss.

“Anytime we lose it’s frustrating,” Rinne says. “The last two times, we’ve been on the losing side so obviously it’s something that—as far as me—I need to be better at. There’s no question about it.”

In his defense, Rinne hasn’t had a ton of support at the other end, with just three different Predators tallying a total of four shootout goals so far this season. David Legwand is currently Nashville’s best shooter with two goals in three attempts. According to Predators head coach Barry Trotz, selecting the right shooters isn’t as easy as it might look.

“The funny thing about the shootout is you can have guys that go out there and score at will in front of friends and family and a couple of media guys up in the stands,” Trotz says, “but you put 18,000 people in the arena and get everybody screaming and all the focus is on him. They don’t seem to have the same skill level. It’s not necessarily always the guy you think that would pull that off.”

And in Rinne’s opinion, the shootout has changed over its existence. Players were once more apt to try gimmicky moves, but now it’s developing into as much of a mental game.

“The last couple of years, I feel like guys have been getting better and better all the time,” the Finnish netminder says. “Now they try to outthink you. The game is evolving and it’s a great challenge. You just have to try and stay on the top of your game and try to block the shootouts and get better yourself.”

The home team has the option to shoot first or defer in a shootout, and unlike many coaches in the league, Trotz chooses to defer. It’s a testament to the faith the coaching staff has in its star goaltender.

“We actually had research that it doesn’t make any difference going first or second. Really, research was basically the same. I left it up to [Rinne]. [Rinne] says, ‘Bring ’em on. I’d rather be put in the forefront first and be the guy to make the save.’ ”

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