Injuries are a part of the game, but that doesn't make it any easier to lose Ryan Ellis, one of the Predators' best players, for at least the next week.
Nashville placed Ellis on Injured Reserve on Friday, two days after the associate captain was forced to leave the 2020 NHL Winter Classic after taking an elbow to the head less than three minutes into the game.
Dallas's Corey Perry was suspended five games for the infraction, and the Preds are hopeful they won't be without Ellis that long - but nevertheless, their defensive depth will be tested for at least the next few games.
"It was a tough loss when it happened, and it's a tough loss still today," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Ellis. "He's having such a strong year for us, and we count on him in so many situations. We'll need other guys to step up and fill minutes and take on some of that responsibility."
Defenseman Jarred Tinordi, who has already been with the Preds for the past week after being recalled from Milwaukee, will get some additional chances in the lineup, according to Laviolette. The Predators also recalled d-man Alexandre Carrier from the Admirals on Friday, another blueliner having a stellar season with the Ads.
"With [Carrier] and Tinordi, they were both playing really well," Laviolette said. "Just based on depth and being where we're at inside the room, I just wanted to make sure that we've got the bodies that we need."
Ellis's defensive partner, Preds Captain Roman Josi, will have a new teammate by his side when the Preds face the Kings in Los Angeles on Saturday night (at 9:30 p.m. CT). Josi knows the Predators can't replace Ellis with one move; rather, it will have to be a collective effort from the entire defense corps as Nashville faces a back-to-back set this weekend in Southern California.
"He does so many little things that people might not see that help [me be a better player]," Josi said of Ellis. "He helps me come into the play, he makes those passes that hit me in stride, or in the O-zone, I know exactly when he comes over [to read off one another]. There's just a lot of little things that he does that definitely make me a better player. He's definitely a huge part of our success."
The Predators will not only rely on players like Tinordi and Carrier to fill roles if needed, but others on the backend like Dante Fabbro, Dan Hamhuis and Mattias Ekholm could see minutes increased as well depending on how each respective game is playing out.
"It's a next-man-up mentality for sure," Ekholm said. "We all know we have a great [AHL] team, and then we have great guys on it. They're just going to have to step up, and we have other guys down the lineup that are just going to have bigger roles who can step up and then fill his shoes. We're just going to try and manage it as well as we can."
No matter whose number is called, the Predators know it's a big weekend in California in Los Angeles and Anaheim as they look to shake Wednesday's loss in the NHL Winter Classic. While they'll have to do so without Ellis, it provides opportunities for others to show they have what it takes to make a difference.
Who will it be?
"Losing Ryan Ellis at any point, whether you're in first place or last place or somewhere in the middle, you take a player like that out of your lineup, it's difficult," Laviolette said. "But injuries happen, and we need to move forward from that. Guys are going to have to step up.
Nashville's AHL affiliate in Milwaukee has been the best team in the league this season, and three of their top performers have gotten the call to All-Star Weekend.
Defenseman Alexandre Carrier, forward Yakov Trenin and goalie Connor Ingram have all been selected to represent the team at the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic to be held on January 26-27 in Ontario, California.
The trio will join Admirals Head Coach Karl Taylor, who was selected as one of four coaches for the event earlier this week by virtue of the Ads having the best record in the Central Division.