NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne is expected to start Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins in his return from a hip injury that has limited him to only nine games this season.
The Predators recalled Rinne from a two-game conditioning assignment Monday and announced that he would start the Penguins game.
"It's a blast to be back playing and feeling good," Rinne said. "I think that's the main thing. Absolutely, I'm just super excited."
Rinne, who hasn't played in an NHL game since Oct. 22, stopped 33 of 35 shots for a .946 save percentage during his two-game stint with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals.
"It's not in the same level -- the AHL and NHL -- there's a little bit of a gap between," Rinne said. "But still, that was the whole purpose of that trip, just to feel comfortable again, get some games and get that game conditioning going again."
Rinne, a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist, has been recovering from an E. coli infection in his surgically repaired left hip. In his last five games before the injury, Rinne went 3-1-1 with a 1.60 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage.
The 31-year-old Rinne is returning as the Predators make a late-season bid for one of the Western Conference's eight playoff spots. The Predators are 12th in the Western Conference standings with 62 points. The Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks are tied for eighth with 66 points.
"You can't just throw a guy in there and expect him to be the savior," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "But just getting him back playing is a great boost because you know the type of player that he is, the type of person he is and what he can mean to our hockey team, not only this year but the next year and the following years."