Last season, Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz had the luxury of going to the whip hand with his thoroughbred goalie Pekka Rinne -- without the fear of wearing him out.
In the early going, as his young team struggled to jell, Trotz rode Rinne hard to keep the Predators afloat. Late in the season, when he sensed that home-ice advantage for the Stanley Cupplayoffs would be crucial as it was in a first-round series victory over longtime nemesis Detroit the veteran coachdidn't shy away from playing his goalie too frequently.
Rinne played in nine of the final 10 regular season games, making starts on back-to-back nights twice in that period andwinning three of the four.
For the second time in two seasons, Rinne was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy,leading NHL goalies in wins last year(43). He ended up playing in 89 percent of the Predators games thenleading the league in games with 73 (a franchise record).
Suffice it to say that in this 48-game season, with its compact...