Programming note: Predators-Sharks coverage starts Saturday at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California with Sharks Pregame Live
SAN JOSE –- Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has stopped just about every shooter he’s faced this season, leading all NHL goalies in wins (19), and ranking second in goals-against average (1.78) and save percentage (.935).
On Saturday against the Sharks, though, one player he'd definitely like to stop is their leading goal-scorer, Joe Pavelski. The two have become good friends since playing together in Dinamo Minsk of the KHL during the NHL lockout two years ago.
Is preventing Pavelski from getting his 16th goal of the season of particular concern?
“I hope so. He’s a pretty good player, so we’ll see,” Rinne said with a smile. “Hopefully I can do that.”
Pavelski said earlier on Saturday that he and former Nashville defenseman Scott Hannan had dinner with Rinne on Friday night, and Pavelski was hopeful that Rinne's "legs were heavy" for the game on Saturday.
The Vezina Trophy frontrunner, Rinne reflected on his time with Pavelski abroad, when asked what the experience was like in a strange land.
“Strange is the right word,” Rinne said. “It was a fun experience, and obviously having Joe made it so much more fun. We spent a ton of time together, stayed in the same hotel, and just every day hanging around. Just the kind of guy he is, we bonded right away, became good friends, and I’m sure it worked both ways –- made it a lot better for each of us.”
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Another pair of former teammates are defensemen Shea Weber and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who helped anchor Team Canada’s dominant gold medal-winning defense in the Olympics last year.
“He was a good player for us. Very steady,” said Weber, a three-time Norris Trophy finalist, including last season. “He might be a little underrated, a lot of people don’t talk about him, but he does his job very well. He’s solid and he can do everything.”
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Peter Laviolette is in his first season coaching the Predators after stints with the Islanders, Hurricanes and Flyers. He admitted he is still getting used to seeing Western Conference teams like the Sharks on a regular basis.
“This is really my first time getting to see them. It’s challenging,” Laviolette said. “[Longtime assistant] Kevin McCarthy and I from the East, we’re not out in the West that much. We don’t even know how to get in the rinks.
“We don’t get to see the teams a lot live. I don’t get to see Joe Thornton a lot live since he moved out here, or Pavelski or [Patrick] Marleau. It’s good to see all these teams in the West and get into their buildings and watch them play. But, my experiences with them aren’t a lot. We rely a lot on tape, and they seem like a dangerous group to me.”