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Preds Not Making Excuses; Saros Thankful for Rinne, First NHL Taste

by Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

It would be easy for the Nashville Predators to make excuses right now, but that’s the last thing they want to do. Nobody wins every night over the course of an 82-game season, but the Preds, who just played six games in nine days and went 1-4-1 during that stretch, know there are better answers than just simply brushing it off.

“You never want to accept those kind of things; it’s easy to say it’s a long season and there’s going to be tough stretches, but at the same time, you have to fight through it,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said after Monday’s practice at Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators get a chance to do exactly that when they host the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday evening, a team with 13 wins on the campaign, thanks in part to the breakout seasons of rookie forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair.

Nashville has the ability to put the puck in the net as well as anyone – the Preds have two, seven-goal performances already this season – but Head Coach Peter Laviolette would like to see his team give more of an effort to score the goals that won’t necessarily show up on year-end highlight reels, especially during a stretch such as this.

“As a group collectively, we need to do a better job,” Laviolette said. “We need to get to the harder areas, and there has to be more determination to score goals. A lot of times, we’re creating zone time and chances, but the urgency to get to those hard areas and fight for goals and fight for offense, we have to get better at.”

Nashville has had their chances, including hitting a post and crossbar during their most recent contest, a 4-1 loss to Buffalo on Saturday night, but the Preds aren’t in the business of trying to rationalize their recent struggles. Rather, they’re intent on finding their way back into the win column with regularity.

“It’s easy to make excuses, and say we’ve been on the road or whatever like that, but you look at the standings and we keep sinking,” Rinne said. “We have to make it stop, and just find a way to win games right now. It’s not about anything else, it’s just about two points and getting wins.”

Saros Gains Invaluable Experience:

Juuse Saros didn’t expect to play his first NHL game during his first professional season in North America, but hockey is only scripted when it’s shown in the movies. Instead, Saros was recalled by the Preds for the first time on Saturday and got the start against the Sabres, stopping 20 of 23 shots he faced on the night.

“He played really well, he didn’t seem nervous at all,” Rinne said of Saros’ first NHL action. “I’ve seen him in big games in the past, and he’s a really relaxed, even-keeled guy. He played a really good game.”

Rinne, a fellow Finn, relishes the opportunity to watch Saros come of age as a pro and offer some tips along the way. Saros is more than happy to listen.

“It’s a great situation for me, and he has helped a lot; I’m so thankful for him,” Saros said of Rinne. “Everything he does is really great, so I think there’s lots of things I can learn from him.”

“It’s nice to be witnessing his first game and if there’s any help I can give, I will,” Rinne said. “I got to know him in the past and have known him for a few years now, so hopefully that makes him feel more relaxed and ease his coming into the League.”

It’s not quite time for Saros to stick in the NHL just yet – he was reassigned to Milwaukee after Monday’s practice – but the experience gained from that first game in the League is something he’ll not only remember for the rest of his life, but can be used as a motivation tool in the weeks and months to come.

“It’s a great bonus, and it was nice to get the first game and be here a couple days,” Saros said. “I just try to improve all the time in Milwaukee and just try to play well.”

“It’s a big deal playing your first NHL game and just that in itself, it’s a big thing,” Rinne said. “I’m sure it’s something that you dream about and you get to do and you’re 20 years old, it’s pretty special. It just makes you realize that you’re that much closer to making it and it’s a great experience for him.”

Roster News and Notes:

Goaltender Carter Hutton, who missed Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury, participated in Monday’s practice. Forward Miikka Salomaki (upper-body, Injured Reserve), also practiced. Forwards Gabriel Bourque (upper-body, Injured Reserve) and Paul Gaustad (upper-body, Injured Reserve) did not participate. Forward Colin Wilson was also absent from the session and was given a maintenance day.

Defenseman Victor Bartley was assigned to AHL Milwaukee after clearing waivers on Monday. Goaltender Juuse Saros was also reassigned to the Admirals.

Nashville’s lines at Monday’s practice looked like this:

Forwards
Filip Forsberg Mike Ribeiro Calle Jarnkrok
Viktor Arvidsson Mike Fisher James Neal
Miikka Salomaki (IR) Colton Sissons Craig Smith
Eric Nystrom Cody hodgson Austin Watson

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