The rookie defenseman scored his first NHL goal Thursday against the Stars.
Adam Vingan / The Tennessean
Every morning during the Predators’ season, “Morning Skate” will highlight the odds and ends surrounding the team. Consider this a one-stop shop for Predators-related information.
If you regularly absorb Predators-related content (and you probably do if you’re reading this), then you know that Nashville’s defense is frequently mentioned among the NHL’s best.
It’s easy to understand why. Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm are a dynamic foursome that each could be a No. 1 defenseman on another team. Their collective performance in the playoffs engineered Nashville’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.
If only they could stay healthy.
The Predators have played 48 of a possible 86 regular-season games with those four defensemen in the lineup, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
“Last year, we really didn’t play as a whole (defensive) corps until maybe January or February,” said Josi, who has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury. “You definitely don’t want that.”
A wave of injuries last season delayed the Predators from finding cohesiveness among their defensive pairs. The long-term absence of Ellis, who won’t return until approximately January as he recovers from offseason knee surgery, could do the same.
The Predators’ depth at the position alleviates some of the pain, though the status of Yannick Weber is unknown after he received a high hit from Stars center Martin Hanzal during the first period of Nashville’s 4-1 win Thursday.
Samuel Girard, who scored his first NHL goal Thursday, has impressed in his first two games, displaying tremendous poise for a teenager.
“There’s a lot of trust in our guys,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’ve got guys that they take down 23, 24, 25 minutes, so you see somebody playing 12 minutes or not in the lineup, and you would think that we wouldn’t trust them, but that’s not the case. We do trust them. It’s just when your top four guys are healthy, they chew up those minutes and there’s not a lot left.
“They’re picking up the minutes that remain — might be 10, might be 14, might be 15 minutes. But there’s a lot of confidence in those players.”
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