Just as the Nashville Predators welcomed Ryan Ellis back to the lineup, they learned they'll have to deal with the absence of another star for at least the next month.
The Preds announced Wednesday forward Filip Forsberg will miss the next four to six weeks due to an upper-body injury sustained on Dec. 29 at Minnesota.
Nashville's leading scorer with 15 goals and 34 points in 37 games this season, Forsberg has missed his team's last two games, the first time the Predators have played a game without him - regular season or playoffs - since the 2013-14 season.
"Any time you take a player out of the lineup like that, it hurts," Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "Filip is a player we've counted on for a lot of years now to be a guy that leads us offensively. He's done that, so when you remove that from the lineup, it's tough. It's never an easy thing."
If there was ever such a thing as an ideal time to suffer an injury, however, this might be it.
The Predators have their mandatory five-day break coming up from Jan. 10-14 and will then get another reprieve during the 2018 NHL All-Star Weekend from Jan. 26-29. Nashville only plays nine games until February, which would coincide with the low end of Forsberg's 4-6 week timetable, and only one of those games comes against a Central Division opponent.
However, that's still at least nine games without the skill of Forsberg in the lineup, something the Predators know they have to be prepared to deal with.
"We have a lot of guys in here that can get the job done, including me," center Ryan Johansen said of Forsberg's absence. "We all have to raise our game level here and bring a little bit more."
"With [Forsberg's injury] comes opportunity," Laviolette said. "We've always said it, and that opportunity will lead to others getting the chance to show what they can do. That's the nature of the beast in pro sports."