If you're at all like me, you had a hard time enjoying the majority of Tuesday's tilt with the Calgary Flames. Was it the low scoring, 1-0 result that sullied your enjoyment? For me, that didn't even register: I was feeling too sick after watching Ryan Suter helped off the ice just 1:26 seconds into the game, on his first shift. It appeared that Suter hyperextended his knee after taking a hit from Cory Sarich in front of the Preds' bench. For those calling for the customary pound of flesh for the offending hit, I should opine that the hit was clean. For those calling for justice, either in league-sanctioned or good old-fashioned frontier form, you're better served to look at the flying elbow delivered to the face of young "Fruitcup" Franson, later in the game. It was difficult to really focus on the game after the Suter injury, though the remaining five defenseman performed admirably while stepping up to eat huge minutes in his absence. The darkest recesses of my mind kept whispering "torn ACL, out for the season," no matter how desperately I tried to quiet them. Like everyone else, I tuned into the postgame show with hopes of good news, only to be greeted by Trotz's typical, noncommittal "day to day" prognosis. This wasn't exactly reassuring, given that he once similarly described Sullivan's back injury, which went on to keep him out for 2+ seasons. Suter himself brought a little bit more relief the next day, when he told Josh Cooper that he didn't think it was too bad, and that he felt confident he'd be ready to get back on the ice by Monday. Regardless, with gutpunching gloom, Suter was placed on the IR, rendering him ineligible to return before the contest with the Blues on October 28.
So how will the Predators get by without a guy that not only plays big minutes across all situations, but comprises part of the Predators' leadership triad? Of course Weber is still there, but like Lennon and McCartney, their individual talents, while appreciable and notable on their own, seem to meld into something so much more when paired. Like Voltron without the green tiger-bot, there's a limb missing when they're separated. To make up for this loss, the sometimes-maligned pairing of Klein and Bouillon will need another strong outing. Both played close to 26 minutes -- the most I can remember from either, without doing any empirical research. It's also important for perma-scratch Alex Sulzer to seize this opportunity for what it is-- possibly his last chance to show that he belongs in this league. Even with a good performance from the young German, it is probably prudent to shelter the minutes of the third pairing. The x-factor in the equation is Shane O'Brien. Most agree that SOB has been a pleasant surprise since arriving from Vancouver -- far exceeding the most optimistic expectations. O'Brien acquitted himself well while playing with Weber on Tuesday, and we'll need to see more of that if we're to have a chance. Or...at the very least, an unreal performance from our Finnish superhero. While some could argue that it would be better to split up Klein and Bouillon, placing one with Franson and the other with Sulzer, so that no one pairing is too green, I think that weakens the entire pool. As mentioned before, you can control the matchups that the third pairing faces, while icing two strong(or at least semi-strong) pairings. The alternative would mean that you'd have a solid first pair -- but two shakier pairings after that. You could afford to roll your pairings a bit more with this approach, but with Suter's injury hopefully short-term, I think you have to load up your top two pairs and hope they get you through until he is ready to return. Just how I'd do it. Maybe I'll shout the idea to the coaching staff pre-game.
They'd probably welcome my opinion, right?