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Pekka Rinne returns to practice, return to game action still unclear

Pekka Rinne back practicing with teammates
Pekka Rinne back practicing with teammates
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Wednesday marked a significant step in Pekka Rinne’s quest to return to game action with the Nashville Predators.

The league-mandated nine-day Olympic shutdown came to an end when the Predators returned to their practice rink at Centennial Sportsplex Wednesday afternoon. The practice session started with action on both sheets of ice. As Rinne worked with goaltending coach Mitch Korn on one rink, the remainder of the team, save for Olympians Shea Weber and Roman Josi, skated on the other.

Soon thereafter, the 6’5” Finn made the short walk over to the other rink to join the teammates he hasn’t shared the ice with since an infection was discovered in the hip he had surgically repaired last offseason. As he joined the others, they banged their sticks on the ice. Rinne received a big embrace from Patric Hornqvist as well.

After about an hour or so of action in practice, Rinne retired to the locker room. There is no timetable for when he will be able to suit up in his familiar number 35 jersey, but getting back to practicing with his teammates made that goal appear a whole lot closer.

Seemingly always carrying a smile on his face, Rinne looked elated as he addressed the media while sweat dripped off of his face.

“It feels great to be on the ice and with the boys and just taking shots,” Rinne said. “It’s been a long time, so it feels great.”

While his progress continues to be closely monitored by the team’s medical staff, he has no restrictions on his activity.

Regarded as one of the NHL’s top goaltenders, it will take Rinne a while before he gets back into the rhythm he is used to when he is between the pipes.

When Nashville’s medical and management staffs feel comfortable that Rinne is set to face live fire in game situations again, the thinking is that he will likely take a conditioning stint with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.

Despite not doing interviews over the course of the last few months, Rinne was in good form Wednesday, even referencing catching a moving train, which is one of Predators head coach Barry Trotz’s favorite metaphors when addressing a player coming off of an injury.

Adding to Rinne’s good mood was the fact that earlier in the day, Finland defeated Russia in their Olympic quarterfinal matchup. Ideally, he would have liked to be in Russia representing his country, but after he realized that ship had sailed, he was fully on board supporting his countrymen.

“This morning it was a huge win against Russia,” he said. “I’m pretty pumped for the win. I had my Suomi, my Finnish t-shirt on around the rink. It was a good day for the Finns.”