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 centre will miss the rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs after emergency surgery on a left thigh injury, abruptly leaving the Predators without their leading scorer when they visit the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night.
The Predators announced the injury Friday after the rest of the club traveled to Anaheim. Johansen was hurt at an unspecified point in the Ducks’ 3-2 overtime victory Thursday in Game 4, which evened a tense, physical series .
An update on Ryan Johansen’s status: pic.twitter.com/Et2vuaR0GI
Johansen leads the Predators with 13 points in 14 playoff games while centring their top line with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson. The smooth centre has played a major role in Nashville’s transformation into a serious Stanley Cup contender ever since his arrival in a high-profile trade with Columbus in January 2016.
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 centre.
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 defenceman Josh Manson. He didn’t need to go to the Nashville dressing room at the time, but Johansen had surgery late Thursday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Before the Predators traveled, they acknowledged an understanding of exactly what they’re facing over the next six days, along with a confidence from past playoff success in Anaheim. Nashville already won Game 1 of this series at Honda Center after winning three times in Anaheim during the first round…