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Predators get Rinne back heading into scary stretch

It's the Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin show as the Penguins and Capitals clash on Wednesday Night Hockey.

The Nashville Predators are heading toward a stretch more ghoulish than Michael Myers’ mask, but at least they’ll have their starting goalie back.

Nashville activated Pekka Rinne off of IR on Wednesday, sending Troy Grosenick to the AHL. Rinne was hurt after a collision with teammate Kevin Fiala during the Predators’ eventual 6-3 win against the Flames on Oct. 19.

Rinne’s return is an especially comforting development once you consider the challenges ahead over the next two weeks or so:

Thu, Nov. 1: at Tampa Bay
Sat, Nov. 3: vs. Boston
Wed, Nov. 7: at Colorado
Sat, Nov. 10: at Dallas
Mon, Nov. 12: at Anaheim
Tue, Nov. 13: at San Jose
Thu, Nov. 15: at Arizona

So, six of the Predators’ next seven games are on the road, and the closest thing to a layup is that Nov. 12 game against the Ducks, and for all we know, Anaheim might sort things out by then. Nashville’s vaunted defense will need to deal with some of the absolute best scoring lines in the NHL during that span.

At least the Predators haven’t been prey away from home so far this season, sporting a perfect 5-0-0 record through their first five road games.

And, again, it’s a big plus to have their big, workhorse goalie back.

As highly regarded as Juuse Saros is, the younger, smaller Finn has been a bit up-and-down to start 2018-19. His 6-2-0 record is strong - particularly for a backup - yet his .917 save percentage is good, yet behind his career pace of .922.

On the other hand, Rinne’s been lights out. In going 3-1-0 so far, he sports a sparkling .929 save percentage. That’s slightly better than last season’s .927, which he rode to his first Vezina Trophy.

Checking deeper stats including those available at Corsica Hockey, Rinne shows more strongly than Saros so far, standing out in categories including goals saved against average.

Saros’ and Rinne’s performance levels are worth watching in both the long and short term, as Rinne is currently in a contract year. A couple weeks ago, Bob McKenzie discussed Nashville’s interest in a possible extension for the veteran goalie:

In a Wednesday update, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun simply reports (sub required) that there have been discussions between the Predators and Rinne’s reps, with no clear indication yet if a deal is close or far apart.

Saros and the Predators managed a 4-1 win against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. You can read more about that victory here.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.