What injuries the Nashville Predators have had in 2009-10 virtually all have been to forwards, which was just fine with coach Barry Trotz.
“Your goaltending and defense always keeps you in the game,” Trotz said. “They can also get the puck to your forwards, they can get pucks out.
“You’d rather have your strength on the back end and you can make up a little bit on forwards easier than on defense.”
That changed Tuesday night when defenseman Cody Franson was hurt on his first shift in the Predators’ 1-0 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.
Wednesday morning Franson was diagnosed with a broken rib and was expected to miss at least two weeks. Alexander Sulzer was recalled immediately and was on hand for the morning practice.
“(Sulzer) was playing really well (at Milwaukee),” Trotz said. “He was getting points, playing really solid. He’s got his timing and is doing all the things you want a guy to do. … You talk about ‘opportunity knocks,’ well it’s knocking now and it’s a great time for him to jump in and do a good job for us.”
Of the 106 man-games Predators’ players have missed due to injury, only eight have been by defensemen. Dan Hamhuis was out the longest when he missed four games from Oct. 17-24.
In the last month, the only absence was the one game Francis Bouillon missed because of illness (Jan. 9 vs. Vancouver), which also was Sulzer’s last NHL appearance. Sulzer was reassigned to Milwaukee a little over two weeks later and produced six points (two goals, four assists) in seven games before Franson’s injury created an opening for him.
“I feel really bad for (Franson),” Sulzer said. “I’ve had those kinds of injuries in the past too. It’s bad for him, but that’s what it is. I was just waiting for my opportunity. Now I’ve got it, and I’m going to try to be good and make an impression.”
Franson will miss the six remaining contests before the Olympic break, beginning Thursday against Colorado (7 p.m., Sommet Center) but likely will be ready to go when the league resumes operations on March 2.
The 22-year-old went into the contest third among all NHL rookie defensemen in goals (five) and fourth in both assists (11) and points (16).
“He was playing well and doing a real good job on the power play,” Trotz said. “Those are the things that happen. They’re a part of the game.”
A minimal part — at least until now — for the Predators.
• In being forced to go 10 deep in Tuesday’s shootout, Patric Hornqvist, Cal O’Reilly, J.P. Dumont, Joel Ward and Shea Weber all got their first shootout attempts of the season. None converted.
Dumont was the only one of that group who had attempted any in his NHL career. He was 2-for-10 overall, 2-for-9 with Nashville.
“You try to work on it (at practice) and there are some guys who have been pretty consistent at it,” Trotz said.
• The point the Predators earned against Phoenix was their first in a loss since a 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Dec. 12 — a span of 22 games.
It also was enough to keep them in seventh place in the Western Conference, the same place they started Tuesday. Detroit was in eighth, tied with Nashville in points (64). Ninth-place Calgary and 10th-place Dallas were two and three points behind, respectively.