After three days of hard practices, the Nashville Predators had an off day on Saturday. Head coach Barry Trotz has run his charges through some long workouts complete with hard skates at the ends of those practices in an attempt to shake off any Olympic break rust that may have accumulated with his players.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne has been away from the ice for much longer than the two weeks that the NHL has shut down in order to let its players head to Sochi’s Olympic Games to represent their respective countries. Sidelined since late October with an infection in his hip, Rinne has participated in all three practices the Predators had this week.
Speaking after going through the full two hour practice Friday afternoon, Rinne was optimistic about his return to game action coming sooner rather than later.
“The last three days, it’s been going well,” he said. “Every day, we have been going a little bit harder and also lengthwise we have been going longer and longer on the ice.”
Despite the months of relative inactivity, Rinne said his body weight was relatively unchanged, but getting back into his peak physical condition will take some time.
The team’s medical staff is keeping a close eye on Rinne, but the returns have been positive so far.
“There are still checkups before the final green light,” he said. “I have to check in with our trainer and meet with the doctor and I think it is in the near future here hopefully. One step closer, but so far so good.”
In repeating the team’s mantra of there being no set timetable for the 6’5” Finn’s return, Trotz said that keeping Rinne’s expectations in check is one of the steps in the process.
“With anybody who is competitive, you always try to push it,” Trotz said. “‘I’m okay, I’m okay, let’s go.’ When this injury happened, we talked about the long term was the most important thing. We are not going to do anything to put Pekka in any kind of jeopardy. So we might have to temper him sometimes down, yes absolutely.”
The Predators get back to the practice ice Sunday and Rinne is again expected to be a full participant. What happens the following day may give a better idea when Rinne will get his spot on the active roster back.
“He’s going to practice with us on Sunday and then Monday morning he’ll probably see the doctor and see where they are going to reevaluate where he is and really look at what he’s had in terms of protocol,” Trotz said. “We’ve got markers where the doc wants to see him after four or five skates with us and we will see where he is and we will see if he wants to add anything or not.”
For Rinne, he hopes that the doctor wants to add 'hang number 35 jersey in his locker' before a game very soon.