The Nashville Predators played well enough to win on Monday night but fell to an opportunistic Detroit Red Wings team 4-1 at the Bridgestone Arena.
Going into the game, you would have thought that the Predators starting three rookie defensemen, including Ryan Ellis making his NHL debut, would have been the team's downfall, but that wasn't the case.
The Predators were missing Captain Shea Weber, who had an unexpected injury that many have speculated to be related to a hit to the head by Mark Fistric, late in Friday's game against Dallas. Kevin Klein also missed his fourth game in a row due to flu-like symptoms.
As a result of the injuries, Roman Josi was moved into the top paring with Ryan Suter and responded well, playing a season high 22:07 and firing three shots. Fellow rookie, Jon Blum scored the game's only goal and had three shots in one of his better games in a while.
All eyes were on Ryan Ellis in his first NHL game. He played 18:13 and was credited with three shots, two shots blocked, and a missed shot. He also delivered a pair of hits and blocked two shots.
Colin Wilson commented on Ellis, "He did well and moved the puck well. He held his own in the defensive zone. He did well, not bad for a guy who came in before the game."
Ellis was surprised as anyone on his call up. "I found out this morning around 11 o’clock. We had just finished our morning skate in Milwaukee. They called me into the office and told me I was going up. Rather than take a nap, I got on a plane and headed to Nashville."
As to his first game, Ellis said, "I was nervous. It was a lot of fun. The guys made it easy. I thought it was alright, I just need a chance to get comfortable."
The real culprit for the Predators was Detroit goalie, Jimmy Howard. Barry Trotz explained, "We held them to 22 shots, we had more chances. The star of the game was all Jimmy Howard."
Detroit was very opportunistic, scoring four goals on 22 shots, getting a pair of goals from Valtteri Filppula, and one each from Pavel Datsyuk and Dan Cleary.
Wilson was pleased with the team's effort but not the result. "We got some good chances. We got some shots. Obviously it wasn't the game we were wanting to play burying and having more energy. We did a great burying but we could have done better."
Another area where the team missed opportunities without Weber was on the power play. Coming into the game, the Preds were ranked second in the NHL but were zero for five on the evening.
Wilson explained, "The power play could have been a lot better. At the end we started getting some chances. Marty's unit was doing well. A couple of bounces could have gone in but didn't."
The outlook for Weber's return was unclear and Trotz indicated that the team would know more on Tuesday.
The young Predators defensemen will have another challenge on Wednesday night when the Minnesota Wild come to Smashville for a 7 p.m. puck drop when the Predators will try to hold on to eighth place in the Western Conference standings.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass