After months, Pekka Rinne is finally ready to return.
"He's gone," said Admirals head coach Dean Evason. "He's heading back tonight."
The star goalie spent the weekend in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals to rehab and helped lead the team to two straight victories. On Friday the game wasn't even close, as they destroyed the Iowa Wild by a 9-1 score. Tonight was much more of a test for Rinne, a 2-1 overtime victory over the Rochester Americans.
"I wasn't really busy," said Rinne. "It was nice to ease back into game action... It was good to be back in Milwaukee."
Rinne wasn't tested too often in either game. He only faced 17 shots in Friday's game and 18 tonight. However, he had to deal with far more traffic in the game against Rochester. The Predators were probably hoping he would get a little more work, but can't be too worried since he saved all but two shots he faced.
"You have to be ready for whatever the game throws at you," said Rinne. "I'm just happy we won both games, it doesn't really matter how many shots I face. I thought the Iowa game it was kind of out of hand in the first period.... I thought that tonight was a really good game. Way faster and there was way more intensity."
It was a good experience for Rinne and the Admirals fans, who got another chance to see a fan favorite. Tonight the Admirals had one of their best attendances of the season, over 15,000 fans.
"It's been a long time since I'd played games," said Rinne. "It was a great opportunity for me to come back here to Milwaukee. I feel like it went both ways. I feel like I helped the team out a bit and they helped me to get back into game action."
"We thanked Pekka after," said Evason. "He's taught our group a lot the last little while. He's such a classy person, quality goaltender clearly, but a better person... He's a pro, a constant pro."
It wasn't always perfect for Rinne this weekend. He looked a little rusty at points and almost got caught out of position a few times by Rochester this afternoon. In the second period he fell down after playing the puck, but his defensemen bailed him out. Rochester nearly won the game in overtime when Rinne lost the puck behind the net, but Americans forward Luke Adam hit the post instead of the wide open net.
Nonetheless, it was nothing too extreme to make anyone raise their eyebrows. It is to be expected that he won't immediately be at the level he was before the injury.
"I'm looking forward to getting back to Nashville and hopefully getting some ice time," said Rinne. "If you asked me, I'm ready to go."
He finished talking to the media by clearly stating his goal this season. "It's pretty straight forward, it's making the playoffs."