The Nashville Predators continue to play a confusing game with their backup goaltending situation. Just eight days ago, Nashville demoted struggling backup Marek Mazanec and recalled Juuse Saros to replace him. Then, two days ago the Predators recalled Mazanec and gave him the start against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Mazanec proceeded to allow six goals in a loss that snapped the Preds’ longest winning streak of the season. Today, Nashville announces that not Mazanec, but Saros is headed back to the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. Saros did not play at all in this most recent call-up.
Saros, who made his NHL debut in a game last season, has been given only one more chance so far this season as well. In a start against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Saros allowed only one goal on 35 shots in the win. Meanwhile, he has six wins with a 1.99 goals against average and .929 save percentage for the Admirals this season. Mazanec, on the other hand, has an atrocious 5.45 GAA and .809 save percentage in his three NHL appearances this season, and a dismal 3.90 GAA and .849 save percentage down in Milwaukee. Saros actually outplayed Mazanec last season in Milwaukee as well, where the pair shared starting duties in net.
While it seemed last week that the Predators brass had moved on to Saros as the preferred backup to Pekka Rinne, Mazanec continues to be choice #2 in net. While Nashville has somewhat come back from a brutal start to the season, they are still playing at a very underwhelming level and disappointing many who believed them to be a legitimate Stanley Cup threat in 2016-17. Rinne, who had his fair share of struggles last season, is back to his All-Star caliber play so far. But if Nashville continues to lose every time Mazanec is called on, it will make the task of fighting their way to the top of the Central Division that much harder. Mazanec may have four years of experience on Saros, but the numbers paint a clear picture of who can help the Predators more this season.