Marek Mazanec said his mother has bombarded him with correspondence from his native Czech Republic.

Thursday, a correspondent who works for a Czech television network arrived here and began sending dispatches back home. The 22-year-old goalie for the Nashville Predators, named the NHL Rookie of the Month for November, said he never expected such success so quickly while playing in his first season in North America.

In all likelihood, his parents didn't either.

"They watch it all the time," Mazanec said. "My mom's still bombing me with messages. It's crazy."

Gone are the days when an Eastern European player with limited English skills would feel isolated and grow homesick in the NHL. Mazanec said he corresponds all the time with his family via Skype and other smartphone applications.

Just as those apps can prove a godsend for a rookie with culture shock, Mazanec has proved a godsend for the Predators, who have battled through 23 of their 32 games without two-time Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne. He remains out indefinitely with a staph infection in his hip. The Predators are hopeful Rinne will begin some light work in a week, but for now he remains on crutches.

As a result, the season's hopes have rested on Mazanec and Carter Hutton, the latter who entered this season with one game of NHL experience. The Predators learned of Rinne's situation after the goalie complained of soreness following a 2-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 22.

Hutton went 3-1-1 in his first five games then faltered. The Predators could have gone with another 22-year-old rookie, Magnus Hellberg, who spent last season and this one with their American Hockey League affiliate in Milwaukee.
However, Nashville opted instead for the lanky Mazanec (the ending is pronounced "nets"). Mazanec (6-foot-4, 187 pounds) had played five games with the Admirals but was 5-0-0 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. The decision took Mazanec by surprise.

"I play like five games in Milwaukee, then they call me up," he said. "Oh, really? What's going on?"

Mazanec lost his first two starts on the road, when the Predators were slumping. Following a 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in which Mazanec was pulled after two periods, coach Barry Trotz decided to start Mazanec again the next night at home against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Trotz said the decision was partly based on the idea that Hutton played the past couple of seasons in the Blackhawks' organization until Nashville signed him in July. Trotz thought the Chicago players would have known Hutton's tendencies. Mazanec represented an unknown quantity for the Blackhawks' dead-eye shooters.