The Nashville Predators were ravaged by injuries to their defensive core during the six-game losing streak, with Ryan McDonagh being the major missing piece and Jordan Gross being called up as a “next man up” scenario.
With McDonagh close to returning to the lineup, likely for Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Gross has been reassigned to the Milwaukee Admirals:
Carrier and Lauzon also missed some time during this recent brutal stretch. They’re back in the fold as well, and Mark Borowiecki remains with an undisclosed injury. It’s unknown when he will return.
Gross Rose to the Challenge for Injury Plagued Preds D-Core
Gross really stepped up in a big way in McDonagh’s absence, despite the losing streak. The team’s glaring issues wasn’t defensively as much as it was on the offensive end.
Due to his “Emergency Loan” status, Gross was required to be sent back down to the Admirals. He’s signed to a $750,000 salary and a cap hit of $762,500.
It’s an unfortunate scenario to see Gross sent back to the AHL because he was getting better by the game and his play earned him a NHL roster spot. This roster move has nothing to do with his play on the ice for the Predators.
This has been a positive development from a season that has had plenty of negative. Gross is a trustworthy option to turn to for the defensive core if the front office decides to move on and make roster space, most notably Dante Fabbro.
Gross had some big skates to fill playing on a pairing with Roman Josi. He lived up to the pressure.
When McDonagh first went down and Gross was called up, I wasn’t sure where Head Coach John Hynes would place him, but hoped he would get his chance alongside Josi.
In fitting fashion, Gross scored a goal through traffic in Monday’s win over the Oilers in a back-and-forth game. He put up 19:15 of ice time and registered three shots on goal. He is by far seeing the highest ice time he’s had in his brief NHL career, only averaging 13:51 with the Arizona Coyotes.
With all of this said, obviously the Nashville Predators need McDonagh back. His leadership and veteran traits are crucial for this team. The penalty kill most importantly needs McDonagh back, which has slumped back down to 22nd in the NHL.
Gross is an undrafted 27-year-old who worked his way through the NCAA ranks and then through the AHL. The Predators front office signed him over this past offseason to a two-year standard deal, and it could go down as a huge bargain when we look back on this in the future.
It goes without saying that Gross is an extremely easy player to root for. He has staked his claim to be next in line if the Nashville Predators need more help for their defensive core down the stretch.