The Nashville Predators have even more bad news on the injury front. Yesterday it was announced that Roman Josi would be out “week to week” with an upper body injury.

Add the Josi injury to a long list of major injuries for the Preds, which also includes Ryan Ellis, Matt Duchene, Juuse Saros, and Luke Kunin.

Not great news for a team that seems convinced it can make the playoffs.

“He’s our leader back there,” Matt Benning said after the Preds’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Hurricanes on Tuesday. “We’re gonna miss him. This season just with covid and injuries and so many games played in a short period of time, I think everyone expected that there was going to be some injuries.”

Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes knows injuries can happen too, but the loss of Roman Josi is a tough one to replace.

“Roman’s such a valuable guy on the ice as well as off the ice,” John Hynes said after Tuesday’s game. “The way he goes about his business, the way that he practices, the way he conducts himself, really everywhere that the team is around. The locker room, bus, meals, hotels, those types of things. The good thing is he’s still with us here, and he’s still around the guys. I think what you do miss, when your captain is out of the lineup, is the voice in between periods and sometimes on the bench when things are going well or if things aren’t going well, he usually is a guy that speaks up.”

While losing Roman Josi for any length of time does not help the Nashville Predators at all on the ice, there is some small silver lining to his absence.

Roman Josi absence leads to new opportunity

One thing most Preds fans have been wanting to see this season is a youth movement. They were promised as such from general manager David Poile, but it has not yet materialized.

That is, until injuries forced the team’s hand.

When Ryan Ellis went down with an injury, the Preds called up young defenseman Alexandre Carrier to play crucial minutes. The same happened with Rem Pitlick when Matt Duchene went down.

Now with Roman Josi out, one of the Preds’ best defensive prospects Jeremy Davies got his NHL debut against Carolina on Tuesday night.

He played 14:02 on the bottom pairing with Carrier, mostly playing at even strength, which was limited due to all the penalties on the night. He managed three shots on goal, which for a defenseman is pretty impressive, and he was not on the ice for any goals against. He did take a poor penalty in the 3rd period that led to a Carolina goal, but overall you’d have to call Davies’ debut a good one.

“I thought Jeremy came in and played well,” Hynes said. “I thought he had good poise, he skated well. Maybe that first power play was a little nervous, but you can see we stayed with him and I thought his power play got better and better too, when he was on those units.”

“Five on five, he was good, he moves the puck, he jumped up into the play well. So I think it was a good first night for him and good to see, he’s a guy we think has a bright future for us so it was nice he was able to get in.”

Jeremy Davies isn’t Roman Josi, but he really doesn’t have to be. By putting in a good showing in his first game, the Predators have a better sense of who Davies is as a prospect. This helps them in the long run, either in building for the future or in putting together trade packages.

Other leaders can step up while Josi is out

The other silver lining to Roman Josi being out is the chance for some other leaders on the team to step up.

John Hynes knows how valuable Josi is in a leadership capacity, but he also knows he has other guys in the room that can fill that void.

“I think it’s on a guy like [Mattias] Ekholm, some of the older players that are in the locker room that have been around. Even some of the newer guys, we’ve added some guys with lots of experience to our team. I feel like you’re never going to replace Roman’s voice, and no one is going to replace him on the ice or off the ice, but I think if guys just step up a little bit in their roles and experience it always helps.”

Mattias Ekholm, one of the team’s alternate captains, has been among several Preds players rumored to be on the trade block this season. This is more due to the Preds’ poor showing in the standings and wanting to get a kickstart on a rebuild than it is to Ekholm’s abilities as a player. He’s been excellent this season for Nashville, but now he’s in a slightly different role.

With Josi and Ellis out, Ekholm becomes the most prominent veteran voice inside the room, other than Pekka Rinne of course. The Preds will need Ekholm to show another level of leadership, to transcend the “strong silent type” that he appears to be to being a more intentional, vocal influence on the younger players. Ekholm has no problem intimidating opponents on the ice with his physical play, now he might have to soften that approach and find a way to coax the best out of six rookies that find themselves in the Predators’ locker room.

If the Nashville Predators can get good minutes out of Jeremy Davies and also improved leadership skill out of Mattias Ekholm while Roman Josi is out, perhaps this extended stretch without the reigning Norris Trophy winner won’t be so bad.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —
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