Nashville defense, one of the stingiest in the NHL, simply failed them this afternoon. In the higher altitudes of Denver, the Nashville Predators dropped a wild and offense-filled game 6-5 against the Colorado Avalanche. A fact that seemed to be lost in the overshadowing of the blown offsides call was the loss of Predators faceoff specialist, and one of the top faceoff men in the league, Paul Gaustad.
After signing a 4 year, $13 million dollar deal during the off-season, most fans weren’t sure that Gaustad was worth the seemingly bloated contract. However, during his 12 games with the Predators so far this season, he’s been Nashville’e best faceoff man and listed right now as 5th overall in the entire NHL in faceoff win percentage.
Around the 6 minute mark in the first period of today’s afternoon game against the Avalanche, Gaustad mysteriously left the ice not to return for the rest of the contest. What made things worse were Trotz’ use of the words “upper body injury” and “doubtful” when speaking of a possible return for tomorrow night’s tilt against the Detroit Red Wings.
Prior to Gaustad leaving the ice, he had taken 2 shifts and been present for 2 faceoffs, winning both of them. The Predators, as a whole, did not have one player over 50% in faceoffs for the entire remainder of the game. Mike Fisher took 24 faceoffs, only winning 11 of them. Legwand and Spaling each took over 10 (14 and 19 respectively), each only won 7. 4 other players took at least one faceoff, three of them not winning one.
The loss of Gaustad was significantly felt throughout the contest for the Predators, who played enough of the game in their own end through the first 40 minutes of action, giving up 6 goals in that span. Without the presence of their, and one of the league’s best, faceoff men, the Predators could be finding themselves in trouble for the duration of Gaustad’s injury.
Tomorrow night’s contest against Detroit also features one of the league’s top faceoff men in forward Pavel Datsyuk, who has very similar numbers to Nashville’s Paul Gaustad. Gaustad currently sits with 149 faceoff wins and 89 faceoff losses. Datsyuk, who sits right behind Gaustad in the faceoff chart, has 138 faceoff wins and 89 faceoff losses.
A quick return for Gaustad would be optimal for Nashville, as they just had the return of their best offensive weapons in Patric Hornqvist. Losing another key cog just makes it tougher for the Predators as they play 9 of the next 14 games on the road.