On Tuesday night, a few of the 17,113 fans in attendance at the Predators game with the Kings may have had to check their program to see who the mysterious number 39 was that came into the game in relief of Vezina candidate, Pekka Rinne who had given up five goals on 24 shot in 42:57 minutes of play.
Anders Lindback had not set foot on the Bridgestone Arena ice during a game situation since he started in goal in a game against Buffalo on December 3. Since then he has started four games on the road and made one relief appearance in Dallas.
On Tuesday, Lindback's rare home relief appearance gave the Nashville Predators a chance to win in a game they eventually lost to the Los Angeles Kings 5-4.
The Predators had not played well in front of Rinne as coach Barry Trotz pointed out. "To me, it just wasn't Peks’ night. We weren’t helping him a whole lot. You have to help him in the crease area. You have to clear pucks, have your man a little firmer."
"Four is usually my limit with Peks and I thought we still had a lot of game to go with, so I thought I’d give him one more." So after Trevor Lewis put the Kings ahead 5-3 with 17 minutes left in the game, Rinne got the early shower.
"It was one of those games," Trotz explained. "There were a lot of pucks around the net. They just found their way. The first one, they dumped it in, threw it right back into the net and Peks couldn't find it, just a lot of those types of goals tonight."
Amazingly, the Predators defense that had allowed ten shots in the first three minutes of the third period stiffened when Lindback came on to the ice. He only faced four shots for the remainder of the game and handled each with ease.
Patric Hornqvist scored his second goal of the game and 20th of the season with 5:18 left on the clock to make it 5-4 and give Nashville, and Lindback, a chance for a comeback win in front of the sell-out crowd. The Predators kept the pressure on right up to the final horn but could not get another goal to send the game to overtime.
After the game, Lindback was somewhat sheepish and almost apologetic as he discussed his relief appearance as he stood beside a obviously dejected Rinne. "Sometimes it happens and I have to be ready."
Lindback explained how he prepares during games for unexpected appearances. "You just try to watch the game and see how the play is going. In between periods I usually try to stretch and keep warm."
Both teams appeared to have trouble controlling the puck for most of the game as there were few crisp passes and plenty of turnovers and interceptions.
"It was really bouncy overall out there tonight," said Lindback. "There were really weird bounces. I don't know if the weather being hot and cold lately could have been the reason."
Lindback enjoyed playing in front of the home fans for only the third time of the season. "It's awesome every time you go in and play in front of out fans who are always loud. It my job to always be ready."
Rinne and Lindback will have little time to prepare for the next contest that will come Thursday night at home against the Colorado Avalanche.
At the end of play on Tuesday, the Predators remained in fifth place in the Western Conference, eight points behind the St. Louis Bules, who moved into first place with a 5-1 win over Chicago.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass