It’s only been seven games into 2019-20, and the Nashville Predators are already having to test out their depth and get creative.
The Nashville Predators have looked the part of being one of the top teams in the Western Conference when they have their full cast of characters. However, they’re having trouble building early chemistry with the roster shuffling that’s having to occur.
Roster changes and shuffling are better to be happening now early in the regular season than at a time when the playoff push is occurring in March and April. It is keeping the Predators from looking like their best in some games. They have three losses to teams that, at least on paper, they’re better than.
The most recent news is the lower-body injury to Filip Forsberg. Perhaps no other player, other than Pekka Rinne and maybe Matt Duchene, are more important to this Predators lineup. You lose Forsberg, and suddenly lines two, three and four are in disarray and full of question marks. They have a game against the Florida Panthers tonight, and it will test their depth once again.
What missing Forsberg means
There was hope that Forsberg would only miss one game after taking a brutal hit from Vegas’ Mark Stone early in the week. It came in a big win over the Golden Knights, but the questionable hit has left us unsure of when Forsberg will return to game action. He missed the morning stake today, per Adam Vingan of The Athletic:
Before that news broke out, the Predators reassigned Daniel Carr back to Milwaukee and are recalling Miikka Salomaki and Yakov Trenin. Salomaki has a lengthy history with the Predators, while Trenin would be making his NHL debut. Neither are anywhere close to Forsberg’s level, so it’s a major downgrade either way.
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Trenin is off to a hot start in the early going of the AHL season. He has four goals and an assist through three games. Based on projected lineups from Vingan in morning skate, perhaps Trenin ends up on the third line and Salomaki goes to his usual fourth-line spot. That would mean moving Kyle Turris back up to the second line. Again, the Predators depth is being tested big time.
Rocco Grimaldi could also stay as the starter, and Salomaki ends up being the healthy scratch. I would lean towards that being the case. Grimaldi has looked fairly decent since coming back from his own minor injury, and Salomaki brings virtually no offensive upside to the table. At least we know Grimaldi will get shots off and create zone pressure.
Defensive question marks
It’s been a rocky start for the Predators defensively, and we’re not accustomed to saying that. Depth is a problem here as well. They’re giving up the fourth-most goals per game in the NHL, right at four goals per game. You can’t consistently win that way even with a high-powered offense.
The third defensive pairing has been a problem. The combination of Dan Hamhuis, Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin hasn’t been working. Perhaps the Predators are going to eventually have to make another call to Milwaukee to give someone else a shot. You have the options of Jarred Tinordi, Steven Santini or Jeremy Davies all in Milwaukee currently. None of them are really producing so far in the AHL season.
This was the risk you took when letting go of P.K. Subban. You hoped that Dante Fabbro is ready to take on that bigger role despite not having a huge NHL sample size to go off of. It was necessary to deal Subban to get Duchene, but we are seeing that the defense as a whole has taken a hit. This needs to be figured out and start showing improvement in the coming weeks.
I’m really keyed in on depth players like Turris, Nick Bonino and Colton Sissons to start picking up the offensive load. Especially without Forsberg in the lineup. Turris is delivering and looks like a new man and hopefully can keep the spot warm for Forsberg on the second line.
Bonino and Sissons have looked pretty good having nine points collectively. This duo needs to keep stepping up as veterans who have to be counted on. They’ve been playing together for quite a while now and should have all the chemistry they need to be productive.
Finally, you can’t discuss depth questions without talking about Juuse Saros as the backup goaltender. Sure, they nearly split the starts together with Pekka Rinne, but Saros is still the backup. He hasn’t looked sharp, but his defense in front of him has done him no favors. He’s going to have to start making more critical saves if he’s going to get out of his early funk.
There’s no reason to panic or anything. These are things that need to get out of the system of the Predators early on. They’re shifting a lot of things around and will hopefully know the right formula one Forsberg gets back and this team can get on a roll again. When they’re fully loaded. they’re one of the best roster top-to-bottom. For now, the depth players have to step up.