The Nashville Predators received some disappointing news yesterday when it was announced before their game with Edmonton that Filip Forsberg would be out “week to week” with an upper body injury.

Not the kind of thing you want to hear right before you play the 7-1 Edmonton Oilers with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

The Preds, who pushed their winning streak to four games with a 3-2 overtime victory in Calgary the night before, would go on to lose 5-2 to the Oilers. Connor Ingram did his best in the net to keep the Oilers off the board, but in the end their attack was just too much.

The Preds are now 5-5-0 on the season, sitting with 10 points in 4th place in the Central Division.

But the attention now returns to the loss of Filip Forsberg.

Filip Forsberg out with upper body injury

We know very little about the nature of Filip Forsberg’s injury. He played just over 12 minutes of Tuesday’s game against Calgary, with his final shift coming with around nine minutes left in the 3rd period.

The Predators have not indicated which “upper body” part could be injured here, so it really could be anything.

So Filip Forsberg finds himself on injured reserve… again.

After playing in all 82 games each of his first three seasons, Forsberg missed significant time with an injury in three of the next four seasons. Make it four of his last five seasons now.

Here’s the number of games missed for the Preds’ top forward since 2017:

  • 2017-18: 15
  • 2018-19: 18
  • 2019-20: 6
  • 2020-21: 17
  • 2021-22: 1 (so far)

That’s 57 missed games in Filip Forsberg’s career, a guy who the Nashville Predators can ill afford to not have in the lineup every night. (Note: three of those missed games were due to a league suspension in 2018 for elbowing New York Rangers’ forward Jimmy Vesey)

But this is hockey. Guys get injured. In their absence, other guys have to step up.

And right now, Matt Duchene is doing just that.

Matt Duchene off to a great start

Matt Duchene scored his fourth goal of the season last night in Edmonton, a slick wrist shot over Mikko Koskinen’s blocker side that tied the game 1-1 in the 1st period.

Then later in the game he added an assist on Ryan Johansen’s late 3rd period goal that made it a 4-2 game.

That puts Duchene at four goals and five assists (9 points) through 10 games, behind only Roman Josi (11 points) in scoring on the team.

To put this in perspective, this season it took Matt Duchene 10 games to score his 4th goal and his 9th point. Last season it took him 25 games to get there. His 2.8 points per sixty minutes played is his highest rate since arriving in Nashville, behind only his 3.6 points per sixty minutes rate he had while in Ottawa and Columbus back in 2018-19.

In other words, this is the Matt Duchene that the Predators thought they were getting when they signed him to a seven year, $56 million deal back in July 2019.

And he’s not just getting lucky on hot shooting either. His underlying metrics are great. He’s 3rd on the team in even strength individual expected goals (2.04 ixG), 4th in individual shot attempts (32 iCF), and 2nd in individual high danger attempts (10 iHDCF). Plus he ranks 2nd on the team in power play points with four, something the Predators desperately need.

Duchene, along with Forsberg, Mikael Granlund, and Tanner Jeannot, has been one of the better forwards for Nashville through 10 games. Here’s the Preds’ expected goals impact courtesy of Hockey Viz:

The difference between Duchene now and Duchene of the last two seasons is he’s finally getting some production out of that effort.

And with Filip Forsberg out for the next few weeks at least, that will have to continue.

The Nashville Predators are a .500 hockey team right now. That probably won’t change much over the course of the season. But if Matt Duchene can continue his hot start, and if Filip Forsberg doesn’t spend too much time on injured reserve, the team could still push for a playoff spot.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —