Beginning with opening night last season through the end of this season’s Nashville Predators bye week, the team has scored a total of 371 regular season goals. However, 90 of those goals now sit on the sidelines with Filip Forsberg on injured reserve and today’s announcement of an unspecified Viktor Arvidsson injury. Having close to one-quarter of the team’s production sidelined in two star players would generally spell certain disaster for a number of National Hockey League teams. This writer believes “not so” with the Preds and here are a few reasons why:
Viktor Arvidsson Injury Won’t Sink Nashville Predators
Predators depth and Calle Jarnkrok is Sufficient
Despite losing two-thirds of its top line, the team still has a variety of options up front. Wingers Kevin Fiala, Craig Smith, Pontus Aberg and Scott Hartnell should all see moderate increases in their time-on-ice. Fiala (10) and Smith (15) are already well ahead of last year’s goal production, and when you throw in utility man, Calle Jarnkrok (10) who glides between center and wing, up and down the lineup, the team should be able to find the back of the net at least a few times per game.
With Predators Defense comes Offense
Nashville’s offense always starts with its world-class defense. Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm and the recently-returned to the lineup, Ryan Ellis are all major threats with the puck, and each is capable of being on the ice for close to half a game. Subban has 32 points in 42 games, with Josi (25) and Ekholm (21) not all that far behind. In just four games, Ellis has already notched his first points, including a magnificent goal against Arizona in just his second game back.
Ryan Johansen: A man with new linemates
With both regular linemates out, the spotlight shines brightly on center Ryan Johansen and where coach Peter Laviolette slots him within the lineup. Johansen usually leads Nashville forwards in time-on-ice, so to expect him to play a diminished role with Forsberg and Arvidsson sidelined is just foolish. Early projections show him possibly playing with other centers Colton Sissons and Jarnkrok. This wouldn’t be the first time the team has thrown together three down-the-middle guys to create a line. Johansen has just five goals and 26 points thus far, but he’s played well with the puck and is an elite passer. Sissons and Jarnkrok both show an eagerness to find the holes and play in dirty areas. It’s Johansen’s mission to spot them and deliver the puck. Sissons has shown hands in the past, citing his hat trick in the Western Conference finals last post-season.
Gaudreau recalled replacing Arvidsson
The Predators are currently nestled in second place in the ultra-competitive Central Division. With the benefit of eight of their next nine games at Bridgestone Arena, Nashville will have to play without the energetic Arvidsson for at least the next week, while Forsberg is not due back until some time in February. Freddie Gaudreau has been recalled from the team’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee, and should slot into the fourth line center spot, flanked by Miikka Salomaki and Austin Watson. Kyle Turris has cooled a bit after a torrid start to his Preds career, but his line with Fiala and Smith is still lethal in the offensive zone and capable of breaking a tight game open with their electrifying play. Nick Bonino will center line three, Hartnell and Aberg on the wings. Cody McLeod will draw in on occasion if Laviolette feels the need for some tough guy deterrence.