Preds welcome back Rinne against Penguins

( - After sitting out 51 straight games, Pekka Rinne is ready to return to the crease for the Nashville Predators.

The club's No. 1 goaltender expects to start on Tuesday when the Predators host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Bridgestone Arena.

Rinne, a two-time finalist for the Vezina Trophy, last played on Oct. 22 before being sidelined with an infection in his surgically repaired hip. He was 4-4-1 with a 2.31 goals against average and .917 save percentage in nine games prior to the injury.

After winning both of his conditioning starts with Nashville's AHL affiliate in Milwaukee, the 31-year-old Rinne is ready to take over the reins for a Predators club which is currently 12th in the Western Conference but still only six points out of a playoff spot.

Nashville has lost four of its last five games and is 1-1-0 since returning from the Olympic break. The Predators lost their last outing, dropping Saturday's 3-1 home decision to the Winnipeg Jets. The Predators fired 40 shots on goal but Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec turned away 39 of them to subdue Nashville.

Simon Moser's first NHL goal summed up the Predators' offense, while Carter Hutton gave up three goals on 20 shots in defeat.

"They capitalized on a couple chances that they had and we didn't," said Predators head coach Barry Trotz. "At the end of the day, our game was pretty good in a lot of areas."

Nashville is playing the fourth part of a six-game homestand on Tuesday and is 15-13-4 this season in Music City.

The Penguins hope to end a three-game slide when they take the ice at Bridgestone Arena.

The Metropolitan Division leaders are 0-1-2 over their past three tilts. The slide matches a season-long losing streak for the Pens, although the club's previous two three-game skids in 2013-14 featured all regulation losses.

Although the Pens were swept in four games by Boston in last season's Eastern Conference finals, Pittsburgh hasn't lost four straight in the regular season since a six-game slide from Dec. 29-Jan. 11 during the 2011-12 campaign.

Pittsburgh's latest loss came outdoors as the Chicago Blackhawks slammed the Pens 5-1 in Sunday's clash at Solider Field. James Neal was credited with the lone Pittsburgh marker, while Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves for the Penguins.

"The setting coming out there was pretty amazing obviously with the snow coming down," Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby commented. "Still an awesome setting, but it's always better when you win."

Sunday's game at the home of the NFL's Chicago Bears marked the start of a five-game road trip for the Pens, who are 17-12-2 on the road this season.

Pittsburgh won the first of two meetings with the Predators this season back on Nov. 15, notching a 4-1 win over a visiting Nashville club. The Pens have won three straight in the series overall but they haven't fared well in the Music City, losing six of their eight all-time games at Bridgestone Arena.