The Nashville Predators faced the reality Thursday that they will have to play the rest of the playoffs without left winger Kevin Fiala, who sustained a broken left leg Wednesday night in their series opener against the St. Louis Blues.
"Kev was playing so well for us," Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis told NHL.com. "He became a dominant player on the ice, and it's a big loss for our team. It hurts right now, hurts for Kev, too, but we have to move forward. He's going to be missed, for sure, but we have to find a way to get past it."
The Predators will try to do that starting Friday night, when they take on the Blues in Game 2 of the Western Conference second-round series, trying to stay undefeated in this year's postseason.
In order to prevent that, the Blues must protect home ice. They lost Game 1 4-3, falling to 1-2 at home in the postseason, compared with 3-0 on the road.
"We have to be better at home," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "We put ourselves in a tough position by not coming out and putting our best game in front of us (in Game 1). We have to be a little more focused and committed to playing a 60-minute game. For me, this time of year, you should definitely feel some momentum and energy from your crowd.
"There were some things (Wednesday) we can build off, things we certainly learned about their team and things we need to do to be successful."
Topping the to-do list isavoiding penalties, which put the Blues in a 3-1 hole in the second period. Two of the Predators' goals came on power plays. The Blues came back in the third period to forge a 3-3 tie before giving up a late goal, but playing from behind is hardly a prescription for success.
"They put us on our heels, put us behind, created a lot of momentum," St. Louis goalie Jake Allen said. "When we didn't have to kill any penalties, it changed the game. I thought we played really well five-on-five."
Nashville, which swept the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, got a goal and two assistsin Game 1 from P.K. Subban and the game-winning goal from Vernon Fiddler with 5:05 left in the third period.
Colin Wilson also scored for the Predators in his first game of the postseason, having missed the Chicago series because of a lower-body injury, and he likely must play a major role if the team is to overcome the loss of Fiala.
Wilson led the teamin playoff points a year ago, when they lost in the second round to the San Jose Sharks. The eighth-seeded Predators are trying to advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
"He's awesome in the playoffs," Ellis said of Wilson. "He's been good for us all year, so he's adapted to his role on the team, and he's one of the guys we lean heavily on. Now losing Kev, we're going to rely on him even more than ever."
Wilson does not believe he will be able to carry the load alone.
"Throughout the year, I think we're a little bit inconsistent, but when we played our game, we were always unstoppable," Wilson told NHL.com. "We have a lot of talent, great D, great goaltending, all-around strong team with a lot of depth. Watching them was fun, but being a part of it is a lot better."