Photo by Frederick Breedon
Peter Forsberg is expected to return to the lineup Saturday for Nashville after missing six games with an upper-body injury.
Center Peter Forsberg wasn't one of the 15 players to participate in Saturday's optional morning skate, but he is expected to return to the lineup tonight when the Predators host the Dallas Stars in a 7:00 p.m. game. The one-time league MVP, who has posted six points in seven games since being acquired by Nashville on February 15, has missed six straight games with an upper-body injury.
"We've had a couple of good practice days and I should be ready to go," he said Saturday morning when asked whether he'd need a few games to get back to game pace.
Forsberg's re-insertion boosts not only one line, but solidifies a second during a stretch when a number of key Nashville forwards are sidelined with injury. During Friday's practice, Forsberg skated with Paul Kariya and rookie Alexander Radulov on one line, while Jason Arnott centered Vern Fiddler and J.P. Dumont.
"When you miss five forwards out of your 12, it makes it real difficult to piece things together," said Predators head coach Barry Trotz, whose team has uncharacteristically lost two games in a row. "It's not exactly fringe players [missing]. It's top players. It's been very difficult. The guys have responded very well. We've just got to get back on track and get winning some hockey games here."
Trotz, who has been mixing lines during and between games recently, said he will likely continue that practice for the foreseeable future. Most of the Predators' injured forwards aren't expected back until the final week of the regular season, though Steve Sullivan could potentially return before then.
"It's more piecing what we think will give us a little bit of a flexible roster," Trotz said. "Because we still have a number of injuries we'll probably do a lot of things that we did on the [recent] West Coast [road trip], where people are moving around and there weren't any set lines for the most part. You just try to get the match-ups that you would like and move people around a little bit."
While Forsberg's return should solidify Nashville's five-on-five play, it also led to new power-play units in practice on Friday. One featured Forsberg, Arnott and Kariya up front with defenseman Shea Weber and Kimmo Timonen at the blue line. That one looked particularly potent during drills. "I'm excited about our power-play line," Forsberg said Saturday. "Arnott has a great shot. We get [Arnott, a right-handed shot,] out there and it makes it two leftys and a righty. We'll see how it goes. We practiced yesterday. If we get the chance to play together tonight it will be great. But I think if you look at that setup it should be pretty good with 'Arnie' as the shooter."
"That [unit] was dangerous," Trotz said. "The other one (David Legwand, Alexander Radulov, J.P. Dumont, Marek Zidlicky and Ryan Suter) was actually pretty dangerous too. Every game it has been two different power-play units just because different personnel have been going in and out--actually more out than in. We've probably had to change our power-play five times in the last five games."
As for Forsberg, he's not too concerned about the upper body injury that shelved him. "I've rested it long enough, it feels like, so I'm definitely confident it's going to be good to go the rest of the way," he said.