The injury hits keep coming for the Nashville Predators after their latest setback is to defenseman Alexandre Carrier, who suffered a very questionable hit the head initiated by Kirill Kaprizov on Thursday.
Carrier will now be considered “week to week”, but not go to IR in the process due to the Predators having the available roster space.
This is a classic hit of whichever side you support, you’re taking that stance. It’s definitely a borderline hit, but I’ve seen much more egregious and nasty hits than this one from Kaprizov.
Coming into 2023-24, it was clear that the Predators had a lot to sort out with their defensemen. Trying to find space for everyone after the Luke Schenn free agency signing, while also re-signing Carrier and Dante Fabbro to one-year deals.
With Carrier being out, the Predators fortunately can turn to a reliable and speedy defenseman in Spencer Stastney to fill the void.
As bad as the Carrier injury hurts, Stastney is capable of effectively filling that role and offering an offensive element to the Predators’ transition attack.
Nashville Predators Putting Their Defensive Depth to the Test
Stastney has skated in five games this season and posted one goal on 15:19 of average ice time. He’s a 2018 5th Round draft pick by the Predators and has taken over the role of being the first defensemen called up when a change is needed in the starting defensive corps.
The Predators have been skating with seven defensemen and 11 forwards the past few games, but Head Coach Andrew Brunette has stated that this isn’t sustainable long-term.
Carrier is the third starting defenseman in the first 22 games that the Predators have lost to a multi-game injury. Luke Schenn was lost in the season opener and missed 19 games, while Ryan McDonagh has missed seven games and just returned on November 22.
With Stastney back in the mix, the Predators have seven available defensemen for the matchup against the NHL’s top team on Saturday, the New York Rangers. The second meeting of 2023-24 after the Predators took a 4-1 win at Madison Square Garden on October 19 with a two-goal game from Cole Smith and two-point games from Filip Forsberg and Tyson Barrie.
Replacing Carrier will be no easy task on the defensive end as he has proven to be an effective two-way defenseman. Playing alongside McDonagh was second-best in the NHL in Goals Against Per 60, but they since haven’t been reunited and instead Carrier played on a pairing with Jeremy Lauzon.
With Schenn recently rejoining the starting lineup, Dante Fabbro has been the odd man out. He missed three games in a row before starting against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and then coming in relief of the injured Carrier against the Wild.
What Challenges do Predators Face Without Carrier?
The shuffling of the deck chairs when it comes to the Nashville Predators defensive corps continues now. Brunette has some challenges ahead of him to sort out who lines up where, but this would be how I would arrange the defense without Carrier for an extended amount of time:
This would be a bit of a shakeup because Barrie and Lauzon have recently been playing together on the bottom pairing, but I really want to see Fabbro back on the top pairing with Josi. They were playing well together to open the season, and I honestly don’t understand why they haven’t gone back to it.
The Schenn acquisition over the offseason has yet to show any value on the ice for the Predators. Granted, he’s only played three games, but has been a non-factor with the exception of registering nine hits.
I think you go with a veteran heavy second pairing of McDonagh and Barrie, which gives you a healthy balance of offense and defensive qualities, and then put Stastney on the bottom pairing with Lauzon.
Carrier is a balanced defensemen. He has eight points in 22 games and also contributes heavily on the penalty kill and in blocking shots. Stastney probably isn’t going to be able to replicate that on the same level as Carrier, so you have a drop-off there.
However, the offensive upside of Stastney intrigues me more so than Carrier’s upside. Stastney is only 13 games into his NHL career, so there’s still a lot of growth ahead for him.
If Stastney is healthy scratches against the Rangers on Saturday, then that leaves the Predators defensive corps with very little offensive upside outside of Josi at the top. I think you have to get Stastney in there in place of Carrier. We will see.
This is a good problem to have if you’re Brunette. You have options at least, and let’s not forget that Marc Del Gaizo has played five games this season as well and was only sent back down because the Predators are overloaded with defensemen when everyone is healthy.
Injuries are inevitable in an 82-game season. The Predators have a stockpile of quality defensemen, and the challenge is arranging the lineup and starting the right guys that give you the best chance to succeed.
The Predators can manage without Carrier for a bit because they have quality depth, and Stastney has shown he can handle being a regular NHL starter.
To thicken the plot even more, Stastney is in the final year of his ELC and will be an RFA this upcoming offseason. He’s playing for a new contract in Nashville, and has that chance now to really prove himself with Carrier likely being out multiple games.
The Predators are in the top-10 among NHL teams with the fewest Expected Goals Against and have also done an effective job at limiting High Danger Shot Attempts, also ranking top-10 in fewest allowed. (Per MoneyPuck).