Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 4/12/12
NASHVILLE Predators coach Barry Trotz had better keep his fingers crossed. His team barely survived the absence of one of its top three defensemen the injured Hal Gill -- on Wednesday in Game 1 of his team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Detroit. If Trotz has a talisman, now would be a good time to stroke it and hope he can conjure some positive mojo because the Preds are at risk of losing another and even more important defenseman All-Star and captain Shea Weber. The good news is that the Preds won Game 1 3-2 for their first ever series lead in three postseason meetings with Detroit, one of the NHL's perennial powers. The bad news is that Weber received a roughing penalty at 20:00 of the third period that could land him in the crosshairs of the league's department of player safety. Replays show Weber, 6-foot-4, 232 pounds, grabbing the head of Detroit center Henrik Zetterberg, one of the Wings' most skilled players and much smaller than Weber at 5-11, 195, and slamming it into the glass. With the way the league is attempting to police hits to the head and concussions becoming a hot-button issue, Weber might need some luck to receive a pass on this one. The play came at the end of a wild series of events as Nashville hung on to win the game. Up 3-1 late, thanks to two goals by rookie Gabriel Bourque and one by checking center Paul Gaustad, Detroit closed to a goal with 2:07 left in regulation on a power-play goal by Tomas Holmstrom. It was a penalty-riddled game with the teams' awarded a combined 14 power plays and one more remained in the offing. With 22.9 seconds left, Nashville's Martin Erat went to the box for holding. Desperate to tie the game, Detroit pulled goalie Jimmy Howard, creating a 6-on-4. As the final seconds ticked off for a Nashville victory, Weber and Zetterberg tangled along the boards. When Weber was first asked about the incident all he would say was, "I don't know. You guys watched it." Asked what might have sparked the incident, Weber simply said, "It's playoffs. It's playoffs" a rougher time of year when the competitive temperature gets turned up in a big way. Finally, he conceded that Zetterberg hit him first in a manner that he did not take kindly to. When he was asked if he thought he might be at risk of a suspension, Weber did not seem to think so. "I don't know," he said. "He hit me from behind, so we'll see. I don't know." In answering questions about the play after the game, Trotz did his best to protect his player. "Zetterberg hit him in the head first," Trotz said. "There wasn't much there. I mean, I was watching the scrum right after that with (Detroit's Todd) Bertuzzi and (Nashville's Paul) Gaustad and Bertuzzi comes in with a big-time, you know, haymaker, so I just think Zetterberg was tired at the end and he knew Webs was there and the game was over." The only comment that Red Wings coach Mike Babcock had on the play was to say that he viewed it from a distance and had yet to see it on replay. "Well, yeah," he said, "but I was a hundred-and-eighty feet away." Sometimes in the playoffs, the league goes with a boys-will-be-boys attitude. Back in 2009, Carolina's Scott Walker sucker-punched Boston's Aaron Ward and the league rescinded the automatic suspension that came with his penalty on the play. Hockey is a tough, physical sport in which the phrase "old-time hockey" evokes an era of frontier justice when plays like what Weber did were common place and often ended with a two-minute penalty, the likes of which Weber received. Zetterberg was not available to comment after the game and if he received an injury as a result of the play, then the odds that Weber could get suspended would likely go up. It's not a situation the Predators can really afford. Weber is the Predators' best skater, a Norris Trophy finalist last year for the league's top defenseman and his importance to his team cannot be understated. His 19 goals tied for the NHL lead by a defenseman in the regular season and he finished in the top five in the NHL in average time on ice at 26:09 per game. In the first period alone on Wednesday Weber logged 11:07 of ice time. He finished the game playing 27:27. The idea of playing Detroit without Gill who has a lower-body injury and whose status is day-to-day and Weber would be something of a nightmare scenario for Nashville. On Wednesday, the Preds struggled to kill penalties precisely the reason why Nashville traded for Gill in February, as he excels in that area -- as Detroit connected on 2-of-8. If Gill is not healthy, it could meaning going with a lineup of six defenseman for Nashville that would include two rookies, Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi, and a third player, Jack Hillen, who made his postseason debut on Wednesday. Nashville beefed up its lineup at the trading deadline looking for players with experience for these situations. They could unenviably be left with inexperience. Trotz had better keep his fingers crossed.
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