NASHVILLE -- After their late-night travel from Buffalo, the Sabres did not have a morning skate today in Bridgestone Arena. During his 6 p.m. Buffalo time media briefing, coach Ted Nolan announced Matt Hackett gets the start in goal tonight, as Nolan indicated he would after Friday's loss to New Jersey.
(Of course, Nolan was going with Hackett Monday in Boston until doing a 180 and returning to Anders Lindback).
Lindback has started seven of the last eight games for the Sabres and actually appeared in all eight, as Matt Hackett was yanked March 7 in Washington. He has a 2.49 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage -- even though is record is just 1-4-2.
It's one of the surprise stories of the league in March and one that has Buffalo fans wondering if he'll become the key villian in the pursuit of Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Lindback, remember, was the throwaway goalie McEichel mavens wanted on the ice when Michal Neuvirth was hot. Now they want him on the bench.
I found a guy today who's not surprised about Lindback one bit: Nashville star Pekka Rinne.
"I'm happy for him. He's a really good guy and a great friend," Rinne told me about Lindback, his backup here for two years. "I believed he can be a great goalie in this league. It's great he's finally had a chance to play.
"The Boston game was unbelievable. He was so confident. It's really nice that he is able to showcase himself and people can see how good he can be and how good of a goalie he is."
(For those concerned about the run of opposing goaltenders against Buffalo, Rinne is starting tonight. He's 37-15-4, 2.12 and .926 this season, placing second in the NHL in wins, fourth in goals-against and fifth in save percentage.)
Lindback played 38 games for the Predators over the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons and his numbers were certainly decent. He was 11-5-2, 2.60 and .915 in '10-11, and was 5-8-0, 2.42, .912 in '11-12 before moving on to Tampa Bay.
"Everybody needs that opportunity," Rinne said. "Goalie is such a fragile position. You get a chance and if everything doesn't go smooth, it becomes somebody else's turn. That's the way it goes. Sometimes you need more time or you need different opportunities. For his sake, I hope he keeps that position and keeps playing well."
Rinne said he was particularly impressed with how Lindback took over for him early in '10-11 when he was out with a knee injury.
"It's the way he works. It always begins with the work ethic and the way you practice," Rinne said. "You can look at 4-5 games and it won't tell too much. It's your character, your day-in, day-out work and how you prepare. In that sense, I've always felt Lindy is a true professional that works hard. That's how it starts and that's how you keep it going."