Saros, 27, exited a 5-4 loss to the Calgary Flames in the third period with an apparent left foot injury and was replaced by Rittich. It was the team’s third consecutive loss, but because of the Dallas Stars‘ overtime win over the Vegas Golden Knights later Tuesday, the Predators sealed a Western Conference playoff berth.
Nashville’s outlook for the postseason will certainly hinge on Saros’ availability. He went to the Predators bench after an interference penalty on Flames defenseman Oliver Kylington stopped play with 6 minutes, 32 seconds remaining in regulation Tuesday. Nashville’s trainer looked at Saros’ injured ankle, and the goalie left the ice without putting any weight on his left foot. He limped to the locker room with his arms draped around members of the training staff.
Rittich, 29, isn’t as utilized as other backups in the league, but has appeared in 16 games this season. He is 5-3-4 with a 3.56 goals-against average and an .883 save percentage. It’s likely that he’ll split the Predators’ final two regular-season starts with the 25-year-old Ingram. Nashville is at the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday and at the Arizona Coyotes on Friday.
Saros has been one of the NHL’s top goalies this season. He has a 38-25-3 record in 67 starts, the most for any goalie in the league, and played in his first All-Star Game this season. Entering Tuesday, Saros had a .918 save percentage and four shutouts and was fourth among goalies with 31.6 goals saved above average.