DALLAS — Green question marks loomed large next to the names Wayne Simmonds and Brian Boyle on the dry-erase board showing the Predators‘ projected lineup inside the Stars locker room Monday morning.
Those question marks soon were wiped away when the Predators said both players were “week to week” several hours before the start of Game 3.
Boyle missed Saturday’s 2-1 overtime victory with what the team deemed an illness. Before Game 3 on Monday, the Predators said Boyle had an “appendix procedure.”
When Simmonds and/or Boyle could return is unknown.
Simmonds, who was acquired for Ryan Hartman and a conditional draft pick on trade-deadline day Feb. 25 mostly for the purpose of providing a physical presence in the postseason, left Saturday’s game after his knee absorbed a Roman Josi shot attempt.
He has just one goal and two assists in 19 games since joining the Predators.
The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Boyle has proved to be the team’s best trade acquisition this season. He had five goals in 26 regular-season games and had an assist in Game 1 of this series. He also proved to be the type of physical force the Predators so desperately needed during the playoffs last year.
Their absences change the dynamics of the fourth line drastically. Two replacements – Rocco Grimaldi, who filled in for Boyle on Saturday and scored his first career playoff goal, and Miikka Salomaki, who hasn’t played since Jan. 4 because of an upper-body injury – will play with Calle Jarnkrok.
“When these things do pop up, and you’re missing some players, you look to your bench and see what you have,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “A lot of these guys have been regulars and have played in playoff games and have history.
“There’s always something you look at that leans one guy over the other. That changes from game to game and that changes from series to series. We have the right people out there (Monday). But that could change as well.”
Happy to be back
Grimaldi missed the final two-plus weeks of the regular season with an upper-body injury and seemed to be lost in the shuffle when the playoffs began.
But Boyle’s absence Saturday proved fruitful for the speedy 5-foot-6 forward, who appeared in a career-high 53 games this season and reached personal bests in goals (five) and assists (eight).
Rocco Grimaldi used a stick named after his grandpa to score first playoff goal on third anniversary of his death
Paul Skrbina, The Tennessean
“Regardless if it’s a playoff game or a regular-season game, I’m so excited to play,” Grimaldi said. “It’s been such a long journey for me to get here. … It could be your last game, you never know.
“That’s how I felt a couple nights ago. I was healthy again, which is great. It’s a tough time for an injury, but I guess it’s perfect timing at the same time. I got a few weeks off. I’m well rested. My legs are fresh.”
Long time coming
Salomaki said he grew tired of wearing suits to every game for the past three-plus months but said the time surprisingly flew by. He couldn’t stop smiling Monday morning at the mere thought of wearing a sweater and pads again.
“It went by fast. I was surprised it’s been that long already,” he said of being out. “It’s frustrating when it takes too long. Just really happy to be back. It’s been a while.”
Salomaki played a few games with Milwaukee to tune up for a possible return. And he’s been practicing with the team for some time. He was slotted in Boyle’s place in the lineup Monday, with Grimaldi shifting to the spot formerly occupied by Simmonds.
Like Grimaldi, Salomaki was kind of lost in the lineup shuffle once Laviolette settled on a fourth line of Boyle, Jarnkrok and Simmonds.
“(Grimaldi) just keeps skating and skating and skating,” Salomaki said. “It must be frustrating for the opponent. It’s great for our team.”
Here are how the Predators and stars lined up Monday morning:
Forsberg, Johansen, Arvidsson
Granlud, Turris, Smith
Sissons, Bonino, Watson
Salomaki, Jarnkrok, Grimaldi
Dickinson, Seguin, Radulov
Benn, Hintz, Zuccarello
Cogliano, Faksa, Comeau
Janmark, Dowling, Pitlick
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