The Nashville Predators have been hit with injuries since the Stanley Cup Playoffs began on Wednesday night. Second line center Mike Fisher left Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals with a lower-body injury on his first shift of the second period and did not play in Game 2. Fisher will make the trip to Chicago but remains day-to-day. He missed the final two games of the regular season leading up the playoffs with a lower-body injury.
Though Fisher’s injury is a big loss to Nashville’s lineup, an even more tragic loss is captain Shea Weber. He will not make the trip to Chicago, which means he will miss at least Games 3 and 4, due to a lower-body injury suffered during Game 2 on Friday night. At 9:20 of the second period, Weber left the game not putting any pressure on his right leg after an innocent collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad. Weber did not return.
GIF: another look at when Weber was probably injured pic.twitter.com/Fy4GGLOxU1
— Stephanie Vail (@myregularface) April 18, 2015
Without their top defenseman in Games 3 and 4 at United Center, can the Predators manage to win against the skilled, experienced Blackhawks?
Before getting into too much detail, what happened in Game 2 after Weber’s injury was not a fluke. After a pitiful second period outing by the Predators in Game 1, they corrected their mistakes.
Nashville outscored Chicago 4-1 once Weber left the ice, which amounted to a 6-2 route to the series 1-1. The Blackhawks’ lone goal when Weber was in the locker room came when the referees failed to penalize them for too many men on the ice.
The Predators’ defensive depth became apparent as Mattias Ekholm and Seth Jones took a share of Weber’s ice time and handled it well. Of course, Norris Trophy contender Roman Josi filled Weber’s big shoes without a problem. Josi had a beautiful, all-important goal with under four seconds left on the clock in the first period and blocked 5 shots in 24:31 of time on ice.
Replacing Weber as Josi’s defense partner was Jones. Josi and Jones have been pairings in three games this season when Weber was not in the lineup.
“He did great,” Josi said. “I thought he did great in the first game too. He’s such a confident guy with the puck and he makes those little plays. I thought he was awesome those two games.”
For his part, Jones retuned the admiration in Josi’s direction.
“It’s unbelievable some of the stuff he does,” Jones said. “It’s a pleasure to play with a guy like that. He makes the game so simple. We kind of had to rotate pairs a little bit this year, so it’s pretty easy playing with anyone on our D corps.”
Ekholm logged the second-most time on ice for Nashville, 23:17, which is the most he has played in a 60-minute game this season. He also amassed a +3 rating.
Most likely, veteran defenseman Anton Volchenkov will be inserted into the lineup as the sixth defenseman. Volchenkov, who played in his 86th career playoff game in Game 1, logged 13:51 of ice time while being paired with Jones. However, with Jones paired with Josi, Volchenkov will be paired with either Ekholm or Franson.
Nashville is 1-2-1 without Weber this season. They look to be 3-2-1 after Game 4.
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