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Get Well Soon: The Predators Need for Josi and Gaustad (A Closer Look)


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Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua/puckscene.com

After talking with a couple friends about the last two games and the dismal, pit-of-the-stomach dread feared by many due to the Predators play against Pittsburgh and Edmonton, it is time to move the hands away from the panic button and talk the “hard-cores” into backing away from the ledge. The best way to do this is to sate the masses with the fact that it is just two games, the Predators are the definition of resilient and the knowledge that relief will come in the form of Roman Josi and Paul Gaustad.

Roman Josi has succumbed to the all-familiar upper-body injury sustained towards the end of the Red Wings game on March 10. Josi has had a history of concussions and hopefully this injury is not of that nature. There is no scheduled time for Josi to return but a speedy recovery may be the first thing to help right the ship after an abysmal defensive performance against Edmonton and Pittsburgh.

Josi, judging by the numbers, is not an elite defender like Suter or Weber but he does bring a certain stability in the lineup. With Josi out, the Predators have many options in the D-core to interchange on the lineup card. The problem with that is the chemistry or the match-up problems that the Predators have faced.

Hillen is a great positionally speaking but his size limits him in wrestling the puck from more aggressive and stronger forwards. Bouillon, although a crowd favorite for a never-back-down mentality, has been a shell of his former self and a defensive liability throughout the season. Ryan Ellis also lacks the size to be a force against bigger opponents and his immaturity with this being his rookie season is apparent in the tiny mistakes that lead to turnovers or not clearing the zone. Even Gill is struggling due to the inconsistency of line-mates and the unnatural progression of building a rapport with a new defensive partner seemingly every other night.

For those interested in numbers, in the 6 games prior to Josi going down the Predators were 4-2-0; since they are 2-3-1. The bottom four defensemen in the last 6 games played since Josi went down are a combined -12 with Gill sporting a -5. Hal Gill was a stalwart on defense when partnered with Roman Josi, as Josi is a primary puck-mover and was adept at holding the point and pinching down at opportune times to thwart the opponents clearing efforts. This evidence may be circumstantial or coincidental, but the truth lies in the time Josi was on the ice. In the 6 games prior while Josi was in the lineup, the bottom four defensemen were a combined +9 and the Predators record was 4-2-0.

Paul Gaustad, who was brought in at the trade deadline was advertised as a big, gritty face-off specialist with decent hands and some scoring ability. He has been all things promoted and more while anchoring the 3rd and 4th lines and playing heavy minutes on the PK. The Predators in the 4 games prior to Gaustad getting injured in the Sharks game were 3-1-0 and since (including the Sharks game) are 1-3-1. The 3rd and 4th lines Gaustad anchored were relatively productive in the four games prior to his injury garnering 7 points (Halischuk, Yip and Smith), Halischuk leading with 3 points. After Gaustad’s injury, however, a severe decline in production occurred:

Matt Halischuk – 0 points and -2

Brandon Yip – 0 points and -3

Nick Spaling – 0 points and -3

Jordin Tootoo – 0 points and -1

Craig Smith – 0 points and -3

Paul Gaustad and Roman Josi are integral for the Predators to maintain a semblance of unity and chemistry for the stretch run going into the regular season’s end and the playoffs themselves. The Predators need this cohesion and purely defensive play to take on the high-octane offenses like the Red Wings, the Canucks or the Blackhawks as these may be the first round opponents for Nashville in the upcoming post-season festivities. Predator fans are hoping for a speedy recovery for every Predator player, but many more may be saying an extra little prayer for Josi and Gaustad to crack the lineup sooner rather than later.