Without Rinne, Predators have to have faith

It’s a matter of trust.

Nashville Predators general manager David Poile can’t say for certain that Carter Hutton, Magnus Hellberg (and possibly Marek Mazanec) will play well enough over the next month to offset the loss of goalie Pekka Rinne. There simply is not enough evidence.

Hutton, the starter for Thursday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets at Bridgestone Arena (7 p.m., no television) has three games of NHL experience. That’s three more than either of the other two have.

Rather than look around for a more proven player in the interim, though, Poile plans to wait and see.

“I think the best thing you can do for any position in the organization is have faith in your people,” he said. “I mean, the worst thing I could possibly say today is that I’m going to get on the phone and start looking for another goaltender. I don’t think that would give our team any confidence and it certainly wouldn’t give these goalies any confidence.”

Rinne missed time twice early in 2010-11 with a knee injury, which ultimately required surgery. Anders Lindback, then a rookie, won three of four (with an overtime loss) in October then won five straight and six of seven in early December.

In this case, a spontaneous bacterial infection in the hip Rinne had surgically repaired in May required an arthroscopic procedure to flush out the joint. The projected timetable for his recovery – four weeks – is based on the procedure and the assumption is that the infection will be successfully treated by that time.

“In theory, the infection will go away through antibiotics and through the flushing and cleansing process,” Poile said. “… To be absolutely factual here, there’s no idea where this came from but it’s there.”

Rinne started nine of Nashville’s 10 games and allowed one goal in each of his last three outings. He played arguably his best game Tuesday at Minnesota (a 2-0 loss) when he made 27 saves and was critical to the team’s two successful penalty kills.

At 4-4-1 he is one of 16 goalies with at least four wins.

Hellberg, Nashville’s first pick (second round, 38th overall) in 2011 was recalled to take his spot and was on hand for the day’s morning skate. How he’ll split playing time with Hutton, a free agent acquisition this summer, is unclear.

“I expect a day-to-day rotation,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Whoever I think is going better is going to play. I don’t really have a plan for that. It’s just going to be day to day what we think. … Right now, I only have one decision and it’s that Carter Hutton is my goalie tonight.”

After that, he’s going to have to trust his gut.