With three straight victories and points in eight straight games, the Nashville Predators look more and more like a playoff team.
With an ever-growing list of injured players, the Predators also look more and more like the franchise’s four previous playoff teams, all of which were hampered in the postseason by health issues.
For example, a 4-3 victory over Detroit on Sunday came with a loss.
Martin Erat, who is tied for second on the team with 50 points (17 goals, 33 assists), sustained a broken leg, which will cause him to miss the rest of the regular season. Erat was hit by a slapshot from teammate Shea Weber on his ninth shift – early in the second period – and did not return.
On Monday, team officials also announced that David Legwand has a fractured cheekbone and will miss the rest of the regular season. Legwand has sat out the last three games after he was hit in the face with a puck during a practice last Wednesday.
Center Mike Santorelli was recalled from Milwaukee on Monday and will be with the team for Tuesday’s game at Columbus (6 p.m., CDT).
“It just happens,” coach Barry Trotz said. “You want to think there’s a reason for it, but guys are playing hard and sometimes they get hurt.”
A year ago, the Predators did not have Legwand for three games of their playoff series with Detroit. Jason Arnott missed two of those contests and Scott Nichol sat out four with injuries.
Erat missed two playoff games with a knee injury in 2007, the first year Steve Sullivan was sidelined by back problems. Goalie Tomas Vokoun – among others – was not available in the 2006 postseason because of blood clots.
Arnott has missed the last nine games of the current campaign with an upper body injury, but the team remains hopeful he will return to the lineup before the end of the regular season. Forward Wade Belak has been out since he was hurt during a March 16 morning skate at Los Angeles, and forward Ryan Jones has missed the last four after he sustained an upper body injury during off-ice training.
Despite all of that, the Predators held on to seventh place in the Western Conference with Sunday’s triumph – their first at Joe Louis Arena since March 15, 2008 – and raised their point total to 84, one ahead of eighth-place St. Louis and two behind sixth-place Columbus.
“I think it’s going to take 89 or 90 points to get in,” Trotz said. “Ninety will probably be a pretty solid number. … We have six games to go, and we just have to win as many as we can.”
They’re just going to have to do so with some different players.
Cal O’Reilly, who was recalled when Legwand was injured, scored his first career goal Saturday and added an assist on Sunday. He has produced three points (one goal, two assists) in his first five NHL appearances.
Santorelli made his NHL debut and played six games in early January, and was recalled after he had a hat trick for the Admirals on Sunday.
“He’s been playing the best of anybody down there the last couple games,” Trotz said. “I think we’re going to have to plug him into a spot and just leave him there.”
Unless someone else gets hurt, that is.