Teams take goalie decisions for Qualifiers down to wire

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Six of the 10 teams playing in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers on Sunday gave no indication who their starting goalie will be.

Nashville Predators coach John Hynes did not reveal their starter for Game 1 of a qualifier series against the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday (2 p.m. ET; USA, NHL.TV, SN360, SN1, FS-TN, FS-A). Coyotes coach Rich Tocchet also did not name a starter for the game at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city.

“I have come to a decision [on a starter], but we’re just following the way we go about our business and we have a practice today,” Hynes said. “After practice, that’s when we inform the goaltender they’re going to play. It’s not fair for me to say it now without having talked to both of those guys.”

Pekka Rinne (13 saves) and Juuse Saros (12) combined to shut out the Dallas Stars in a 2-0 exhibition game Thursday. Rinne was 18-14-4 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .895 save percentage in 36 games (35 starts) this season, the worst statistics in his 12 full NHL seasons. Saros was 17-12-4 with a 2.70 GAA and .914 save percentage in 40 games (34 starts).

“I feel very confident in both goalies,” Hynes said Saturday. “As we’ve said, in training camp, they were both very competitive and both played well and it’s a unique situation. I feel that the way that they are together, the way the compete and support each other, it’s helpful.”

The Coyotes are choosing between Darcy Kuemper, who was 16-11-2 with a 2.22 GAA and .928 save percentage, and Antti Raanta, who was 15-14-3 with a 2.63 GAA and .921 save percentage.

“The night before [a game], I talk to (goaltending coach) Corey Schwab just before we give our final answer,” Tocchet said. “We’ll talk to Corey, and have a team meeting, just a routine we always do.”

The Boston Bruins, who play the Philadelphia Flyers in an Eastern Conference round-robin game at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, the Eastern Confernce hub city (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS), may have a decision to make. Starter Tuukka Rask (26-8-6, 2.12 GAA, .929 save percentage) was feeling ill and did not practice Saturday. If he can’t play, Jaroslav Halak (18-6-6, 2.39 GAA, .919 save percentage) would be the Boston goalie.

Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar, whose team plays its first Western Conference round-robin game against the St. Louis Blues (6:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360, TVAS2, ALT, FS-MW) would not name a starter between Pavel Francouz (21-7-4, 2.41 GAA, .923 save percentage) or Philipp Grubauer (18-12-4, 2.63 GAA, .916 save percentage). 

Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, who will choose between Joonas Korpisalo (19-12-5, 2.60 GAA, .911 save percentage) and Elvis Merzlikins (13-9-8, 2.35 GAA, .923 save percentage) for their qualifier series game against the Toronto Maple Leafs (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS, FSO), would only say he was “very comfortable with our goaltending.”

Minnesota Wild coach Dean Evason is choosing between three goalies for their qualifier series game against the Vancouver Canucks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHLL.TV, FS-N, FS-WI); Devan Dubnyk (12-15-2, 3.35 GAA, .890 save percentage), Alex Stalock (20-11-4, 2.67 GAA, .910 save percentage) and Kaapo Kahkonen (3-1-1, 2.96 GAA, .913 save percentage).

“We don’t know until post-practice,” Evason said Saturday.

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