The Nashville Predators not only lost their Western Conference game last night in crushing fashion, but have lost one of their key forwards in the process. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that Ryan Johansen required surgery to repair a left thigh injury, the result of which will be a 2-3 month recovery period. The emergency surgery was completed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Johansen played more than 27 minutes in the overtime game, leading all forwards of either team.
The 24-year old center has developed into the #1 option the Predators were after when they traded Seth Jones for him last year, scoring 61 points during the regular season. His play in the postseason for Nashville has been close to Conn Smythe-worthy, with 13 points in 14 games an an excellent defensive effort every night. Matched against some of the toughest defensive centers in the league, Johansen has found success and helped the Predators become a real potential Cup-winning team. Now, they’ll have to find a way to fill the huge hole in the middle of the ice with someone else.
Mike Fisher is the obvious candidate to take on an even bigger role, but he left game 4 in the third period with an apparent head injury after Josh Manson’s knee collided with it. He didn’t play any of the overtime, registering less than 13 minutes on the night. Calle Jarnkrok has played well this season but has little experience going up against the top checking units of other teams, while Colton Sissons and Vernon Fiddler don’t have the offensive chops to play on the top line. Mike Ribeiro, an option because of his history of offensive production, was the center of a Yahoo! Sports report yesterday speaking about his latest relapse with alcoholism and his current status of rest and rehabilitation. Ribeiro was waived earlier this year after a trade request and finished the season with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL.
This is a disappointing end to a playoff run for a burgeoning young forward, especially after the war of words he’s maintained with Ryan Kesler throughout the series. The Predators will need to find a way to fill his minutes with productive play, and perhaps this is a chance for another young player to step up and make a difference in the playoffs. Especially after also losing Kevin Fiala earlier in these playoffs, the spotlight will brighten on Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson even more now to carry the offensive load, while hoping that Colin Wilson and James Neal can step up even further.