While Pekka Rinne’s strong start has helped back the Nashville Predators’ high expectations, Cory Schneider can’t save the New Jersey Devils from a rebuilding campaign.
Rinne and the visiting Predators look for their third straight victory to open the season Tuesday night against a Devils team trying to end a winless start.
Nashville (2-0-0) hasn’t opened with three straight victories since 2010-11, arguably the best season in net for Rinne. It was also the first of back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference semifinals – a place the club hasn’t returned to since.
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The veteran goaltender has the Predators again eying big things with a lights-out start in which he’s allowed only one goal in victories over Carolina on Thursday and against Edmonton on Saturday. He has stopped 56 of 57 combined shots in those games, albeit against two of the league’s poorest offensive teams last season.
Still, Rinne has impressed. He’ll add a franchise record to his resume Tuesday with his 384th game played and already holds team marks in wins (206) and shutouts (37).
"I don’t think he can impress us anymore because he does it every night," said defenseman Roman Josi after the 2-0 win over the Oilers.
Rinne shifted the focus to his team’s defense, which has killed off each of the eight power plays it’s faced. Nashville ranked 18th in the NHL last season with an 80.8 percent penalty kill. New Jersey has scored on two of its seven power-play opportunities so far.
"I think from last year that’s the one area we can improve and we’ve really done a good job in these two games," said Rinne, who is 2-2-1 against New Jersey in five career starts with a 2.14 GAA and .928 save percentage.
The Devils (0-2-0) have started this season much like the previous one ended, dropping their first two to make it six straight without a win dating to April. New Jersey hasn’t won in regulation since March 20, going 1-9-3 since with one shootout victory.
Schneider is 0-7-2 during that span with a 3.11 GAA and .898 save percentage. The veteran let three Winnipeg shots by to take a 3-1 loss in Friday’s season opener before sitting out Saturday’s 5-3 loss at Washington.
Schneider is 52-27-12 with a 1.91 GAA and .930 save percentage at home for his career, but he has lost each of his last five in regulation at Prudential Center. His GAA rises to 2.68 and his save percentage drops to .917 in those games.
He is 1-1-1 with a 3.00 GAA in four career starts against Nashville.
Despite eight goals allowed through two games, first-year coach John Hynes took some positives from New Jersey’s loss to the Capitals. The Devils rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit with goals from Adam Henrique and Eric Gelinas and killed off a 5-on-3 power play in the second. Washington then scored three unanswered goals in the third.
"A lot of things we talked about wanting to accomplish coming into tonight’s game we were able to do," Hynes said. "Unfortunately, when the game was on the line, we didn’t respond the right way after that goal."
Rinne is 2-2-0 with a 3.05 GAA and .890 save percentage in his last four road starts. Craig Smith has a goal in each of Nashville’s first two games.