With no knock on Johansen’s abilities, the Predators did not look like they missed him, beating the Boston Bruins 5-3 at Bridgestone Arena.
Four different Predators scored in this one while seven different players picked up points. That kind of scoring distribution is evident of a rejuvenated depth, bolstered by the acquisition of Kyle Turris on November 5.
“We have a lot of depth on this team, so everybody stepped up and it was a big hole to be missing, but we’re lucky to have a lot of depth and everybody played better,” Turris said. He picked up two assists in the winning effort.
The last time Johansen was noticeably missing from the lineup was late in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the Predators had to play the two games of the Western Conference Final and the entire Stanley Cup Final without him thanks to a freak leg injury. In his absence, players like Colton Sissons, Frederick Gaudreau and Pontus Aberg all stepped up to fill the void.
Sissons never found the back of the net in this one, but he notched an assist on Nick Bonino’s second-period goal. That experience with top-line minutes was a big help for him in this one.
“Probably a little bit heavier minutes and playing against some talented guys on the other side of the rink tonight,” Sissons said. “So that experience in the playoffs definitely helped a lot of us.”
With a 6’3”, 218 pound frame and a knack for speed and scoring, Johansen is a difficult player to replace. He’s got 17 points on the season so far and gets to center an incredibly talented line.
When a guy like that goes down, his replacements have to bring their A-games.
“Joey has a massive role on our team, especially on the offensive side of things and you definitely want to chip in a little bit when we’re missing him,” Sissons said.
Head coach Peter Laviolette split up Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg with their usual center, Johansen, out of the lineup. With the talent spread out through four lines, the Predators remained lethal at every moment in this game.
“Yeah, watching Colton do what he did and Jarny, we really just wanted to try and find a balance tonight,” he said. “We knew that they attacked with four lines and they play the game fast. We wanted to have a balanced attack of four lines so we split Arvidsson and Forsberg up where we lost Johansen just to give it a balance and I thought the guys did a pretty good job.”
The story of the night was Craig Smith, who continued his stellar season with two goals, including one beauty on a breakaway. He also picked up a secondary assist on Kevin Fiala’s goal in the second period, his first three-point game of the season.
Despite the line shuffling thanks to Johansen’s absence, Laviolette left Smith’s line with Turris and Fiala intact, and for good reason.
Since acquiring Kyle Turris in a three-team trade on Nov. 5, his line, along with Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith, has produced a combined total of 32 points (13g-19a) in 12 games, in which the #Preds are 9-2-1.
— Nashville Preds PR (@PredsPR) December 5, 2017
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Turris said with a smile. “Smitty is playing great, Kevin is playing awesome. Just a lot of fun trying to get them the puck and get open.”
It remains to be seen how long Johansen will be missing, but if he still isn’t ready, the Predators will have to have a repeat performance on Tuesday in Dallas. However, unlike the 2017 playoffs, there are even more guys waiting in the wings to eat up those tough minutes.
“Yeah, our depth is pretty good now,” Sissons said. “When we brought Turris in, it was a huge help and Bonino too. We’ve got a lot of guys that can step up when guys go down.”
The Predators will hustle to Dallas to take on the Stars on Tuesday night at 7:30 PM.