ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Nashville Predators already face a daunting challenge when they attempt to take control of the Western Conference finals in a pivotal Game 5 on the road.
Without Ryan Johansen, that task is immeasurably tougher.
The star Nashville
The Predators announced the injury Friday after the rest of the club
Johansen leads the Predators with 13 points in 14 playoff games while
Just two wins away from their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the Predators now must figure out how to beat a playoff-tested opponent with no help from their top playmaker — and perhaps without captain Mike Fisher, another possibly injured
Although the Predators didn't say how Johansen got hurt, he skated slowly to the Predators' bench late in Game 4 after absorbing a hard check on the boards from Anaheim
Before the Predators
"That's why it's the hardest trophy to win in sports," said forward James Neal, who scored Nashville's overtime winner in Game 1. "And we should be confident in our group. We have a chance to go in their rink, win a game, and come back with a chance to win in our home building. So put a smile on our face, enjoy it, get ready, and feel good about a tough game in their rink and what can come from that."
Johansen had one goal and three assists in four games against the Ducks, who deployed their shutdown defensive line
The problems of Johansen's absence are compounded by the fact that the Predators also could be without Fisher. The veteran was injured during the third period of Game 4 when Manson accidentally hit him in the head with a knee while leaping to reach a puck.
Nothing appeared illegal about Manson's contact with either Nashville
"To have any success against (Rinne), you're going to have to make life difficult," Anaheim
To address their sudden depth problems down the middle, the Predators could promote
Johansen will need at least two months to recover, ending his season at a crucial moment in the longest playoff run in Predators history. He is the second key Nashville player to incur a season-ending injury in the playoffs after young Swiss forward Kevin Fiala broke his leg in the opening game of the Predators' second-round series against St. Louis last month.
After posting two multipoint games in Anaheim to open the series, Johansen went scoreless in the Predators' two home games against the Ducks. He was still a major threat against all of the Predators' playoff opponents, providing his two wings with strong playmaking on one of the NHL's most exciting young lines.
AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville contributed to this report.
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Greg Beacham, The Associated Press