Any chance that all of the Nashville Predators’ injured forwards could return before the end of the season vanished Thursday, when general manager David Poile announced three would undergo surgery to repair injuries that had sidelined them in recent weeks.
Center Paul Gaustad and left wing Colin Wilson will have shoulder stabilization procedures, and right wing Gabriel Bourque will have knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. The status of two others, center Mike Fisher (upper body) and right wing Brandon Yip (lower body), remains unclear.
The only help on the way is 18-year-old Filip Forsberg, who is expected to travel from Sweden and join the team Saturday. In order to keep the 2012 first-round draft pick who was recently acquired in a trade with Washington from burning the first year of his contract, though, the Predators can only play him in five of the six games that remain following Friday’s contest against Dallas (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena).
“We’ll just evaluate where he is,” coach Barry Trotz said. “I don’t expect him to come in and be a savior or anything because I have no idea where he is in his development. … Realistically, I think he’s a really good prospect and we’ll get a chance to see him when he comes.”
Conversely, it will be next season before Gaustad, Wilson or Bourque are in uniform for the Predators again. The first two will be out for up to four months following surgery, Bourque will miss up to four weeks.
All three figure to be at full strength for training camp.
Gaustad came to Nashville late last season in a trade with Buffalo and brought shoulder issues with him. It became a recurring problem this season, when he missed time on four separate occasions and was limited to 23 appearances.
“We – meaning Paul, the doctors and ourselves – made the determination that we felt that he could play this year and get through this year. But he’s been out a couple of times, and that’s what he’s been plagued with each time and each time it’s gotten a little bit worse.”
He finished with two goals and three assists, but his primary value was in the faceoff circle, where he won 59.7 percent of his chances.
Wilson was the Predators’ leading scorer with seven goals and 12 assists in 25 games when he was injured March 9 against Minnesota. He has not played since.
“[Wilson] was playing really well,” Trotz said. “He was taking the step that you want a player to take. … I think he felt that we relied on him to create something, relied on him to do something and the he took that as a little more of a responsibility.”
Bourque, who opened the season at Milwaukee but was called up in the first week, has missed the last five games but still shares the team lead in goals with 11.
“Everybody has injuries,” Trotz said. “We’ve just had a lot of injuries at one position – the forward position, which has limited us this year. We’ve missed some key people during some important times. Everybody goes through that. For us, it had more of an impact than we want to say.”