Nashville Predators: Hope springs in Preds fans as Ellis skates

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 11: Ryan Ellis
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 11: Ryan Ellis /

After being sidelined by injury for the first half of the season, Predators bearded defenseman Ryan Ellis is skating again.

Thursday morning, Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis made his first on-ice appearance since the Stanley Cup. Ellis sustained a lower body injury during Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, however played Game 6. After the season, he underwent surgery. He spent the remainder of the summer rehabbing, and skated Thursday for the first time.

Last year, Ellis had a career year, recording 38 points, 64 hits, and 137 blocks. He added 13 points, 29 hits, and 51 blocks, in 22 playoff games last year.

Ellis was a key part in the Predators success last season, both offensively and defensively. He has great vision, a very quick, compact shot that gave goalies trouble.

He is great in the corners, and is very comfortable throwing his body around the ice, even though he is a mere 5 foot 10 inches.

Potential Pairings

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Last season, Ellis spent most of the year alongside current captain Roman Josi. The two were very productive together, and tag-teamed one of the best blue lines in the league with PK Subban and Mattias Ekholm.

Right now, Ekholm and Josi are the starting pair, and have been dominating in all facets. They’re quarterbacking the league’s 3rd best power play and 3rd best penalty kill. Behind them is Subban and Alexei Emelin, who have also been very solid for the Predators. Matt Irwin and Anthony Bitetto have been consistently the 3rd pairing.

Ellis’ initial timetable was a return right around Christmas. Although he skated Thursday, and looked solid, the timetable hasn’t changed. Ellis’ injury was simply disclosed as a lower body injury for a long time, however it was eventually revealed that it was his right knee. That’s all we know though.

Thursday, the knee didn’t look to be bothering Ellis, as he was seen cutting, and stopping and starting with ease.

Once he returns, Ellis will most likely ease into the rotation on the 3rd line. Once he feels comfortable, he’s expected to join Subban on the 2nd line, dropping Emelin down to the 3rd pairing.

Although Ellis spent most of last season with Josi, I don’t see Laviolette breaking Josi and Ekholm up. They’ve been too good together this season.

A blue line with Josi-Ekholm, Ellis-Subban, and Emelin-Bitetto/Irwin gives the Predators two very solid pairings, and one good pairing.

The Benefits

The Predators could use the huge boost of defense that Ellis brings, as they have given up 30+ shots in 17 of 24 games this year. The Predators are playing solid defense, and forcing most enemy shots from low-scoring areas, however, 30+ shots on most nights is just too many.

If Pekka Rinne wasn’t having a sensational year, the Predators 15-6-3 record could look very different. No matter where they come from, shots are still shots.

With a career Corsi percentage of 52%, Ellis is just a few points away from being an elite defender. (55+% is considered elite) Corsi is an excellent statistic for a defenseman, as it reflects that player’s team’s possession and shots while on ice. With a 52% Corsi rating, the numbers show that the Predators possess the puck more, and get more shots while Ellis is on ice.

Both very good things.

Next: Just how good are the Predators right now?

We are all holding our breath until the bearded defenseman returns around Christmas. Thursday’s skate was a good sign.

Go Predators