NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Carter Hutton weathered his trial-by-fire moments with the Nashville Predators.
The former Rockford IceHogs goaltender got a big surprise as this season began, as Pekka Rinne’s complications following hip surgery meant he’d get more playing time sooner than expected. It wasn’t always pretty. But lately, Hutton’s been putting that trial-by-fire tutelage to good use.
Hutton was named the NHL’s third star for his three victories last week, and he’ll be in goal tonight when the Predators host the Chicago Blackhawks. For Hutton, who did not start the last time the Blackhawks were in town, last week’s honor was appreciated. But he’s crediting the team more than himself.
“It’s one of those things that’s obviously great recognition. But we have to keep on track if we want to make the playoffs,” said Hutton, who sports a 2.76 goals-against average entering tonight’s game. “It’s a team honor. We’ve played really good hockey. We’re trying to get two points (every game); that’s our biggest focus.”
Perhaps, but Hutton deserves credit for what he’s done lately. Hutton stopped 97 of the 101 shots he saw in his last three games, all Predators victories. Much like Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta, Hutton got his prime opportunity quicker than expected. Hutton said the surprise workload may have been a blessing.
“Sometimes playing is the best way to figure it out, right?” he said. “I look at (Raanta), he’s playing really well too and he was thrown right into the fire. He’s new to North America and doing really well. It’s the same thing here: you get thrown into the mix and we battle and you have a bunch of guys in front of you that are willing to help out.”
Hutton got to see some of his former Rockford teammates on Monday night. While his career didn’t continue with the IceHogs and Blackhawks, Hutton looks back on that time as a great learning experience. And right now, it’s paying off with an NHL career elsewhere.
“I hadn’t played a lot of hockey until I got there. (Rockford general manager) Mark Bernard gave me my shot,” Hutton said. “Even there, it was trial by fire. (Alex) Salak had been hurt and (Alec) Richards was struggling. (Goaltending coach) Andrew Allen put in a lot of time with me, helped me develop my game. I owe a lot to that organization.”