(Sports Network) - Excellent play by goaltender Pekka Rinne last year helped the Predators reach the postseason for the fifth time in the last six seasons. An outstanding preseason by the Finnish netminder has Nashville thinking he can do it again.
Rinne and the Predators are set to begin their regular season this evening with a matchup against the Anaheim Ducks at Bridgestone Arena.
The 27-year-old went an excellent 32-16-5 in 58 games last year, posting a 2.53 goals-against average and seven shutouts. Rinne then posted a 2.68 GAA in six games versus the Blackhawks in the opening round of last season's playoffs, but the Preds were eliminated in six games and remain without a series victory in five all-time trips to the postseason.
Nashville qualified for the postseason as the seventh seed and its 47 wins and 100 points were the club's highest single-season totals in three seasons.
Rinne did not slow down in four preseason appearances, going 2-0-0 with a 0.99 GAA and .957 save percentage. He is 3-2-2 in seven career starts versus the Ducks with a 2.12 GAA and one shutout.
The goaltender will also benefit tonight from having one of the top all-around defenseman in the league in front of him in Shea Weber, who had 16 goals last year and inherited the captain role after Jason Arnott was traded in the offseason.
Weber teams with Ryan Suter to form a very good defensive pairing and the Predators also added former Canuck blueliner Shane O'Brien to the fold after a trade on Tuesday.
Offensive additions to Nashville this season include speedy center Matthew Lombardi and forward Sergei Kostitsyn, joining a group headed by Steve Sullivan and Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist had a club-best 30 goals last year and matched Sullivan's team-leading 51 points.
Kostitsyn (foot) and Martin Erat (back spasms) are both questionable for this contest.
The Ducks are still looking for their first goal of the 2010-11 season after losing last night's season opener, 4-0, in Detroit.
Jonas Hiller stopped 39-of-43 shots faced, while the Ducks managed just 21 shots to begin a season-opening three-game road trip.
"You can't just go out there and play 80 percent if you play the Detroit Red Wings," Hiller said.
Cam Fowler, the 12th overall pick of the 2010 draft who grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, made his NHL debut and the defenseman blocked five shots in just over 21 minutes of ice time.
These two clubs split four meetings last year, with each team winning once at home and on the road. The Ducks have won four of six and six of the last 10 meetings overall as well as three of their last five trips to Nashville.