Feb 27, 2014
On the final leg of a three-game road swing, Nashville dropped a heartbreaker to the Carolina Hurricanes after a Jeff Skinner goal with 3:31 remaining in regulation, giving the Hurricanes a 2-1 win. After the game, coach Barry Trotz effectively put Predators goaltender Carter Hutton on the hot seat for his poor performance:
Hutton fell to 7-7-2 at the conclusion of the contest and things did not seem to be the brightest for the Predators. Nearly two months later, Hutton has kept Nashville’s playoff hopes alive. With the news of Pekka Rinne’s probable return to the lineup in the coming weeks, Hutton is giving Nashville every ounce of effort he can muster, putting together a 7-2-2 record in his last 11 games, including a 3-2 win tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Yet, what will Nashville do with three NHL-caliber goaltenders ready at their disposal once Rinne is activated off the injured reserve list?
In Hutton’s mind, he feels that he’s proven himself capable night in and night out for the Predators.
“I feel like I have a pretty good body of work here and I’ve proven to the coaching staff and management that I can win hockey games for them and be competitive every night,” said Hutton. “Whatever happens, if [Rinne] plays, if I play, or if Dubnyk plays, it doesn’t matter. We’re here and we’re all playing for the Nashville Predators and we’ll do whatever we can to win hockey games.”
“I try not to really even look at my numbers. I try to keep it perspective right now, one game at a time.”
The landscape of the Nashville Predators goaltending situation has changed drastically over the last two months. The Predators were being floated by Hutton and the stellar rookie play of Marek Mazanec. Then, on January 15th, Nashville traded forward Matt Hendricks to the Edmonton Oilers in return for goaltender Devan Dubnyk, a chance to shore up their goaltending while waiting for any possible news about Pekka Rinne.
In Dubnyk’s only two starts of the season, he’s dropped both outings: a 5-4 loss to the Colorado Avalanche and a 5-4 loss in a shootout to the Calgary Flames (on a night where Eric Nystrom notched four goals).
Hutton, the common factor throughout the course of the season, remained their most viable option.
During Hutton’s 7-2-2 stretch since January 5th, he’s recorded Nashville’s only shootout win of the season and allowed two or less goals in five of his seven wins, including tonight’s game against Tampa Bay, shutting out the Lightning for the final 50 minutes of regulation.
With Rinne off to Milwaukee for the weekend on a conditioning stint, the Predators may finally have the combination of Rinne and Hutton that they had planned on this past off-season. The extended workload in Rinne’s absence, though, has given Hutton not only invaluable experience, but a growing confidence through the trials and tribulations of professional ice hockey at the most elite level.
Photo Credit: Kristen Jerkins