Game 6 of the Western Conference Final between the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks is underway at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, but neither team is fielding a full-strength roster for this one. Fans were well aware of the serious condition of Predators center Ryan Johansen, but many other key players were still considered day-to-day heading into tonight’s game. With lineups announced, nearly all in question remain out.
For the home team, looking to put an end to this series tonight and clinch their first ever Stanley Cup Final berth, the Predators will have to do so without captain Mike Fisher and bruising forward Craig Smith. Fisher missed Game 5 as well with an undisclosed injury, but given the minimal amount of attention the team had given his condition, many expected Fisher to be back for Game 6. That is not the case, as he misses his second straight contest. Smith was a game-time decision and even took part in warm-ups, but made the call himself that he was not healthy enough to play. Nashville avoided another major loss in the first period tonight, as Viktor Arvidsson was the victim of a game misconduct-worthy boarding by the Ducks’ Nick Ritchie and left the game. However, he returned mere minutes later.
The loss of Ritchie is the least of Anaheim’s concerns, as the major injury issue of the game is the absence of starting goaltender John Gibson. Gibson had played every minute of every Ducks postseason game thus far until getting injured in Game 5 with a lower body injury. However, many believed that Gibson would be ready to go for an elimination game. Instead, Gibson did not even suit up for Game 6, leaving Jonathan Bernier to make his first career playoff start, backed up by Jhonas Enroth. Bernier allowed two goals on the first three shots he faced as the Predators jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. Also missing from the Anaheim lineup (still) is Patrick Eaves and, more surprisingly, Rickard Rakell. Rakell missed Game 5 with a lower body injury, but he too was expected to suit up tonight. Instead, Rakell did not even make the trip to Nashville. For Gibson, Eaves, and Rakell, their injuries may mean that they have played their last games of the 2016-17 season.