If the Nashville Predators are going to break out of their brief funk, they’ll have to do it without their own leader.
The Wild will look to snap a seven-game skid Wednesday night while the Predators try again to adapt to life without star defenseman Shea Weber.
Nashville announced Tuesday that Weber, the team leader with 21 assists and 29 points, is the latest victim of the NHL’s growing concussion problem. He was injured in a 6-3 loss at Dallas on Friday.
The Predators (18-14-4) found out the impact of the Norris Trophy finalist’s absence Monday, when their five-game home winning streak ended with a 4-1 loss to Detroit - their third defeat in four games overall.
“I think there was some apprehension (without Weber),” coach Barry Trotz said. “We had a very good Detroit team coming in here and you don’t know who is going to respond to matchups.
“I thought we responded pretty well.”
The Predators did a nice job of holding the Red Wings to 22 shots, and defenseman Ryan Ellis had a solid NHL debut by logging 18:13 of ice time, but the club now faces an indefinite period without its captain.
The loss of Weber, who has five goals and eight assists on the power play, leaves a huge hole in a unit that went 0 for 5 without him Monday after converting 4 of 8 in the previous two games.
Outscored 12-3 while Koivu was sidelined four games with a leg injury, Minnesota (20-12-5) continued its free fall Monday with a 4-2 loss to Colorado.
Koivu set up a goal in his return - he has a point in seven straight and leads the team with 29 - but the Wild’s inability to score has become a major concern as they have dropped one point back of Vancouver for the Northwest Division lead.
Minnesota has scored nine total goals during its skid after averaging 3.4 during a 7-0-0 surge that preceded it. It’s still uncertain when Devin Setoguchi (ankle), Casey Wellman (wrist) and Guillaume Latendresse (post-concussion symptoms) will get back on the ice.
The Wild took another hit Monday when defenseman Jared Spurgeon - second on the team with seven power-play assists - was checked face-first into the boards by Cody McLeod. Spurgeon will not play Wednesday due to a lower-body injury.
That is bad news for a power-play unit that has converted just 2 of 22 chances during the skid.
First-year coach Mike Yeo is not panicking as his club tries to avoid its first eight-game skid since an 0-7-1 stretch March 10-26.
“This is still part of our process,” he said. “We passed the test earlier about how we would do if we were having success. But where we clearly have to improve is when things are not going well, how does that affect you?”
The Predators figure to have Pekka Rinne in net considering his stellar history against the Wild at home. Rinne, who made 27 saves in a 3-2 loss in St. Paul on Nov. 23, has stopped 93 of 94 shots while winning all four career home starts - three shutouts - versus Minnesota.
The Wild have been outscored 14-1 while losing three straight in Nashville.