Countrymen Rinne, Niemi reach first NHL playoffs

Rick Gano The Canadian Press April 14, 2010

Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and Chicago’s Antti Niemi share a homeland. On Friday night, the two Finnish goaltenders will have something else in common when they make their debuts in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The six-foot-five Rinne went 32-16-5 this season and hopes to use his big frame to block the net for the seventh-seeded Predators.

Niemi, a 26-year-old rookie, took over late in the season as the Blackhawks’ top goalie, starting the final nine games. He had a six-game winning streak before Chicago lost in overtime to Detroit in the season finale Sunday, knocking the Blackhawks into the second slot in the Western Conference.

With goaltending one of the biggest questions for the talented Blackhawks this season, Niemi supplanted Cristobal Huet as the starter and finished the season 26-7-4.

Niemi and Rinne each had seven shutouts.

“Both teams got young goalies and the comparisons are pretty accurate, very similar in a lot of ways,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said.

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