This season, much of the Nashville Predators offense has been provided by its defense. Predators Captain Shea Weber leads the team in points with 29, including 8 goals and 21 assists.
Weber suffered a concussion against Dallas on Friday
Ryan Suter is fourth on the team in points with 24, including 5 goals and 19 assists.
With 27 goals scored with the man advantage, the Predators have the second best power play in the League, connecting 21.6 percent of the time. Of the 27 power play goals scored, 5 have come from Weber, 4 have been scored by Suter and Roman Josi has picked up a power play marker.
With news that Weber sustained a concussion during Friday night’s game against Dallas becoming official Monday afternoon, the question becomes, who will lead the Predators on offense?
David Legwand leads the team with 10 goals, 4 coming on the man advantage. Legwand says the offense from Weber and Suter has been a big part of Nashville’s success.
“They have been getting their opportunities and capitalizing on them. That’s a big part of [our offense]. Doing those types of things are good for this team,” Legwand said about the defensive pairing.
Suter and Weber have each also scored a shorthanded goal this season.
Two more of Nashville’s penalty killers also note the importance the offense provided from the defense has been this season for the Predators.
Nick Spaling says the Predators score by committee, and the offensive defensemen on the team are as important as the more skilled forwards.
“I think we want to rely on team offense. Obviously, we have some very skilled offensive defensive that are putting up points. It helps out a lot when you have guys like Weber and Suter on your team,” Spaling said.
Matt Halischuk adds “Yes, definitely,” when asked if the team relies on the defense for its offense. “They are huge for us. Everyone around the League knows about their capabilities,” Halischuk said.
With Weber out of the lineup and the defensive pairing of Weber and Suter broken up, what will Nashville do to maintain its offense?
Ryan Porth of Smashville24/7 reported that after practice on Tuesday, Head Coach Barry Trotz was optimistic that Weber might be able to play on Friday in St. Louis and that he was progressing nicely.
While the team is hopeful of an early return, Weber may be out of the lineup for longer than just a couple of games.
Philadelphia Flyers captain Chris Pronger is out for the year after sustaining a concussion. Last season, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby missed almost an entire calendar year with a concussion, returned to action only to be sidelined again by another head injury. In fact, 35 players around the NHL are out of the lineup with a concussion, concussion-like symptoms, post-concussion syndrome, or a head injury.
There is just no concrete timetable for Weber’s return, despite the optimism.
Martin Erat and linemate Legwand, along with Colin Wilson will need to continue to be the forwards that have carried much of the offense. Erat has 6 points in his last six games, including 3 goals and 3 assists. He has 23 points in 27 games since returning from injury on October 29th. Furthermore, the team is 6-0-0 when Erat scores a goal.
Legwand has 4 goals and 3 assists in his last 11 games, and Colin Wilson has 10 points in his last 12 games including 3 goals and 7 assists.
But three of Nashville’s top six forwards have struggled as of late. The second line of Mike Fisher centering Sergei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist has been unable to find the back of the net, and with Weber out, it is their time to step up.
Kostitsyn and Hornqvist have each scored only two goals in their last 20 games. Fisher has 5 goals in that same span.
If Fisher, Kostitsyn, and Hornqvist can find a way to get their offense going, it would help in alleviating the loss of offense that comes with an injury to Weber.
The Predators will try to get back to their winning ways Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena. The slumping Minnesota Wild make their first of two visits to Music City this season. Game time is shortly after 7 p.m.