Originally posted on Inside Smashville  |  Last updated 3/23/12

By Seth Lake

Injuries are a part of the game of hockey.  Every team has them and when they strike, ultimately they should serve as an opportunity for others to get a chance to shine.  All season long the Nashville Predators have benefited from a deep pool of talent and a relatively healthy lineup losing just 133 man games due to injury.

Josi being out of the Predators lineup has affected the team's play

After acquiring three players at the trade deadline last month and adding a fourth player on Wednesday, with the return of Alexander Radulov, depth should not be an issue.  However with injuries to Colin Wilson and Paul Gaustad up front and Roman Josi on the back end, the 16 healthy forwards and 7 healthy defensemen on the roster have struggled of late. This was especially noticeable in the Predators 5-1 loss to the Penguins on Thursday night.


In Pittsburgh, Roman Josi missed his sixth straight game after suffering an upper body injury against Detroit on March 10th.  In his absence the team has faltered, going just 2-3-1 during that stretch and allowing an average of 3.5 goals-per-game, including allowing 4 or more goals in 4 of the 6 contests.  This is a very concerning trend for the team as they have gone just 9-22-6 this season when allowing their opponent to score 3 goals or more in a game.

Upon being acquired from Montreal, Hal Gill found instant chemistry with Josi to help solidify the Predators blueline. In his 10 games playing alongside Josi, Gill had two assists and a +4 plus/minus rating. The Predators went 7-2-1 during that stretch.  However in the 6 games since Josi’s injury, Gill has struggled to find chemistry with a new partner.  Playing with a rotation of Francis Bouillon, Jack Hillen, and Ryan Ellis as his partner, Gill has picked up another pair of assists, but also a –5 rating during that span.

But Gill is not the only one missing Josi right now.  Since Josi’s injury, Ellis has played in just 3 contests. During his first two appearances, Ellis was paired with Hillen while Bouillon played alongside Gill and Kevin Klein recovered from injury. In those two games, Ellis had an assist and played to a +1 rating while averaging over 13 minutes of ice time per game. After sitting for the next two games as a healthy scratch due to Klein’s return to the lineup, Ellis was tried as a partner to Gill on Tuesday night against Edmonton with disastrous results having a –4 rating in 18:30 of ice time. Subsequently, Ellis found himself as a healthy scratch again on Thursday night at Pittsburgh.

Moving forward, with or without Josi, the Predators need to find a way to stabilize the defensive pairings. Earlier in the season it was Josi recovering from an injury sustained on the first day of training camp that stabilized the defense, but the Predators cannot afford to wait or count on Josi returning to the lineup again this season to get the job done. Josi is currently skating by himself and has not participated in a team practice or traveled with the team since his most recent injury. Should the Predators not find suitable combinations for the second and third defensive pairings among the defenseman currently on the roster, it might be necessary to look to the Predators AHL affiliate in Milwaukee where several defensemen with NHL experience litter the roster including Jonathon Blum, Tyler Sloan, and Teemu Laakso.

Despite taking part in the team’s practice on Wednesday morning at Bridgestone Arena and traveling with the team to Pittsburgh, Paul Gaustad missed his fourth straight game after being injured at San Jose on March 15th.  Acquired at the trade deadline, Gaustad was brought in primarily for his faceoff and penalty killing abilities, but in his absence the more offensively-gifted Craig Smith has taken Gaustad’s place in the lineup at even-strength going scoreless with a –3 rating and winning just 41.2% of his draws. In comparison, in the six games Gaustad has played since being acquired he has picked up 3 assists while playing to a –2 rating and winning 62.2% of his faceoffs.

Unfortunately, since he was acquired, Gaustad has now missed as many games as he has played due to a reoccurring upper body injury leaving the Predators with few options on the roster besides moving Smith into the center position where he faces more responsibilities and has struggled thus far in his NHL career.

Also missing his fourth consecutive game on Thursday night was Colin Wilson.  Despite registering just one goal in his previous seven games, Wilson brings a lot of offensive skill and a power-forward element to the bottom-six already registering 36 points (15 goals, 19 assists) in 66 games this season.

Although there are ten forwards overall vying for the final six roster spots among the forwards each night, secondary scoring from the bottom-six has gone stone cold.  In the 10 games since the first game after the trade deadline on February 26th at Carolina, when the bottom-six scored all 3 goals in the Predators 3-1 victory, the third and fourth lines have combined to score just 2 of the Predators last 32 goals scored.

Can too much depth be a bad thing? It’s a question that Predators head coach Barry Trotz would likely answer no. As mentioned above, injuries are a part of the game and overcoming injuries key to being a successful team.  The key for the Predators moving forward is to continue to try to find a couple of combinations that work together to give the team much needed secondary scoring from the bottom two lines.  When scoring 3 or more goals this season, the Predators are 35-6-4 picking up 74 of their 92 points (80.4%) in the standings in those 41 games.

Stops and Starts

  • Two very concerning scoreless droughts right now belong to Nick Spaling (scoreless in his last 12 games) and Andrei Kostitsyn (scoreless in his last 6 games).  Hopefully with the possible returns of Wilson and Gaustad to the lineup as soon as Saturday night versus Winnipeg, they will each find the chemistry needed with their linemates to get back on the scoresheet soon.
  • For the fourth straight game, the Predators allowed the opponent to score the first goal and found themselves trailing throughout the contest.  In the last 4 games, the Predators are 1-3 picking up their lone victory last Sunday in come from behind fashion at Anaheim.  On the season, the Predators are 13-21-4 when allowing the first goal.
  • With their third linemate in four games, the second line anchored by David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist remain hot accounting for the only Predators goal on the night and combining for 9 of the team’s 30 shots on goal.
  • Pekka Rinne is 0-3-1 with a 3.25 GAA in his last four starts. While he has not been at the top of his game, you cannot discount the affect the team’s defensive issues are having on his play. Rinne will rebound, but might be best served by getting the game off on Saturday.
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