NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The big news out of Sunday’s practice at Centennial Sportsplex was that defenseman Roman Josi sustained a concussion from Steve Downie’s controversial hit during Friday’s game in Denver. Per a team official, there is no current timetable for Josi’s return.
For Trotz’s full comments on the matter, see our video above.
This is a big blow to a team that’s already been bit by the injury bug a few times in the early portion of the 2013-14 schedule. Viktor Stalberg remains on the IR with a shoulder ailment; Filip Forsberg has missed the first two games of the regular season with a lower-body injury, though he could return to action on Tuesday; Patric Hornqvist was banged up during exhibition play; and now Josi could miss a significant amount of time.
“No matter who is in the lineup, we have to keep pushing, keep working,” said Hornqvist after Sunday’s practice. “Losing guys to injuries — it’s hard. But when we get on the ice, we have to play with the guys we have. There are no excuses in this league, and we know what we have to do to get some wins.”
Since Josi has already been concussed at least once in his pro career, Nashville will more than likely take things slow and allow him ample time to recover. After signing the Swiss rearguard to a seven-year deal just months ago, there’s no reason to sacrifice his long-term health for short-term gains.
But there are many levels of severities when it comes to head injuries. Last year we saw Jeff Skinner return from a concussion — his second in two years — after just two weeks. Then again, guys can miss the whole year with similar diagnoses.
While we can’t jump to any conclusions at this juncture, it is encouraging that 1) Josi hasn’t been placed on the IR, and 2) the Preds haven’t recalled anyone from Milwaukee. We’ll update this space if that changes.
With Josi out, the Preds are going to require some of their depth defensemen to step up and compensate. Ryan Ellis, who has been a healthy scratch for Nashville’s first two games, will be in the lineup on Tuesday in lieu of Josi and will be expected to contribute at both ends of the ice. Other than Shea Weber and Kevin Klein, Ellis has played the most games of any healthy blueliner on the Preds’ roster (64), though that’s not saying very much.
“He’s a guy who I thought had a real strong training camp at points, then fell off a little bit,” Trotz said of Ellis. “I think he’s a good player. It’s not like he’s coming in way over his head. He’s got some games under his belt and I think he’s going to come in and try to prove some things — not only to the coaching staff, but everybody else.”
There are a lot of different ways Trotz and his staff can approach this situation, and they’ll probably have to tweak the depth chart a few different times over the course of the next couple of games.
It’s possible we’ll see Seth Jones get some time alongside Weber, though that would mean one of the two would have to move to the left defenseman spot, which isn’t their natural position. Kevin Klein told me in preseason that he was adjusting nicely to playing on the left side of the rink — at the time he was paired with Jones — so we may see him make that transition on Tuesday.
Since Mattias Ekholm and Victor Bartley are the only two lefties in good condition on Nashville’s defense, both should see their roles increase while Josi’s out. Bartley looked real good with Klein on Friday, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he starts playing more than 20 minutes per night on a regular basis (he skated for 21:41 against the Avs).
The fact that Josi was seriously injured on the Downie hit should only add fuel to the fire that’s been lit between Nashville and Colorado. The two teams will meet again on Nov. 6 at the Pepsi Center, and will face-off at Bridgestone Arena on Jan. 18.