The Nashville Predators have not lost a game in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they suffered a loss of a different kind in Game One of Round Two against St. Louis on Wednesday night.
It was early in the second period when Preds forward Kevin Fiala went awkwardly into the endboards. The diagnosis wasn't positive - a broken left femur and derailed hopes of being on the ice for the remainder of the postseason.
Fiala underwent successful surgery and is set to begin rehab when he returns to Nashville. In the meantime, the Preds will have to carry on without a player who had found his place with the team, making a noticeable impact in the playoffs.
"It's tough, Kevin was playing really well for us and he was a big part of who we are and where we're going," Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "When you take a player like that out of the lineup, it's going to be a tough loss. But I think right now we just wish good thoughts for him and hope he heals up and can get better."
"Kev was playing so well for us," defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "He became a dominant player on the ice, and it's a big loss for our team. It hurts right now, hurts for Kev, too, but we have to move forward. He's going to be missed for sure, but we have to find a way to get past it and move forward."
Video: Laviolette speaks on Preds losing Fiala and adversity
They'll do so with another familiar face back in the lineup - that of winger Colin Wilson - who returned to the lineup in Game One after missing the First Round due to injury. All Wilson did was score the game's first goal, making an immediate impact at a time of the year that always seems to bring out the best in his game.
"'Playoff Willy,'" Ellis laughed. "He's awesome in the playoffs. He's been good for us all year, so he's adapted to his role on the team, and he's one of the guys we lean heavily on. Now losing Kev, we're going to rely on him even more than ever."
Wilson admitted it was painful to watch from afar in Round One, but he saw plenty to like in his team, reaffirming how they've come to this point - undefeated in the postseason so far.
"Just that we're a great team," Wilson said. "Throughout the year, I think we're a little bit inconsistent, but when we played our game we were always unstoppable. We have a lot of talent, great D, great goaltending, all around strong team with a lot of depth. Watching them was fun, but being a part of it is a lot better."
After missing a number of games, Wilson said it took a few shifts to get his timing back, but if that was the case, it didn't really show. Still, Wilson believes he has plenty more to give, and that his fast start in Game One will lead to more. Others would tend to agree as well.
Video: Fisher, Ellis, Wilson, Subban talk Fiala and Game 1
"There's just guys who thrive in the playoffs," Ellis said. "He just rises to the occasion and seems to do whatever it takes, and at this time of the year, it's win at all costs, do whatever it takes to win. Willy is another guy that just elevates his game, and it's nothing he does special, he just seems to get to those hard areas… We're going to need those kinds of efforts from everyone to be successful."
Especially against this St. Louis team. Defenseman P.K. Subban remarked after Game One that it was one of the toughest games he's dealt with in his career. The Blues brought not only the physically that was expected, but also a slew of skill - a combination that the Predators will do their best to fend off once more on Friday night, no matter who is in the lineup.
"Statistically, we knew coming into the series that this was the best team in the NHL down the stretch," Subban said. "We expected a great team, and that's what we got. It was a great battle last night, and it's going to be that way, not just every game, but every shift of the series. There's a mindset that goes with that, a preparation that goes with that and they're going to bring that out in you, whether you want it or not. We have to be ready for the biggest game of the season tomorrow."