Last week was Thanksgiving week and the end of that week was Black Friday, where people try to get the best possible deals for the upcoming holiday season.
The Nashville Predators had a different sort of “Black Friday” week where they were hit with a variety of injuries that will really test their depth.
Injuries to Paul Gaustad, Gabriel Bourque, Miikka Salomaki and Carter Hutton will force the Predators to try to kickstart the top-six forwards to break out of their slump. The quartet may not be the first names fans think of when they are asked about the Nashville Predators. However, they are all important.
Gaustad, Bourque and Salomaki do a lot of the little things, while Hutton is an experienced backup goalie that can step in when needed.
The PK May Not Be OK
One of the most noticeable things that is missing with the Predators so far is the trouble with the penalty kill. The Predators are one of the better teams when on the penalty kill. However, Nashville gave up a pair of goals to a Buffalo Sabres team that has been streaky on the power play. The Predators are now 14th on the penalty kill.
Part of the reason is the loss of Bourque, who does a lot of his work on the PK unit. Bourque suffered a lower-body injury on Nov. 27 in Nashville’s 3-2 overtime-loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. The injury is severe enough to put him on the injured reserve and won’t be eligible to return until Dec. 5 against the Detroit Red Wings.
He is one of the better man-down defenders in the league, and that’s something that could be sorely missed. He averaged 2:52 in shorthanded ice time last season and is one of the best forecheckers in the league. According to the site Left Wing Lock, Bourque logs many minutes on the PK.
He may only be 6-feet tall, but he plays bigger than his frame. The Predators will be happy to get him back soon.
Gaustad and Salomaki Injuries
While Gaustad does a bit of work on the penalty kill, he’s mostly known for the best faceoff man on the team. Gaustad was injured for the second time this season when he left the Nov. 25 game at Buffalo. The upper-body injury also forced Gaustad on the IR.
He had just returned from a lower-body injury earlier in November and missed a handful of games before returning on Nov. 21 against the Minnesota Wild.
Gaustad has been a rock on the fourth line, and so has Salomaki, who was recalled from the American Hockey League Milwaukee Admirals in late October. He was placed on the IR on Thanksgiving after picking up an undisclosed injury. Salomaki had sat the Nov. 21 game against the Wild, and was probably on his way to going back there.
The fourth line had been playing pretty well despite other injuries, so Nashville fans are hoping both of them can also shake the injury bug.
Hutton Takes a Header
An injury that went viral was the flip that backup goalie Carter Hutton took against Buffalo. It was in the third period when Hutton tried to play the puck, but collided with the Sabres’ Marcus Foligno
Hutton did end up finishing the game and he (and his teammates) had a good laugh over it. He looked ready to go for the rematch with the Sabres on Nov. 28, but he was a late scratch with a lower-body injury.
RELATED: Carter Hutton is a Good Backup
The injury pressed young Finnish goalie Juuse Saros into action, and Nashville fell 4-1 to Buffalo. Hutton should be ready to go for Tuesday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, but regular starter Pekka Rinne is the expected starter.
Every team faces injuries during the season, but there seems to be a rash of them as of late. Luckily, nothing really happened to the top-six forwards or defense, but these all prove that the Predators need to get a shot in the arm from the first two lines like what happened last year.
Mike Fisher has picked up the slack by scoring in three straight games, and Filip Forsberg snapped out of his slump with a Black Friday goal against the Flyers. However, the injuries did not help Nashville gain points in games against winnable opponents. These points could come back to bite the Preds later in the season when fighting for playoff-seeding.
Covered hockey since attending SUNY Oswego in Upstate New York in the early 2000s. Has written about college, major junior and professional hockey for the last five years.
Resides in Watertown, NY.