The Nashville Predators may have some good news to start 2018, as it looks like defenceman Ryan Ellis could be back in the lineup on Tuesday night.
The club will face the Vegas Golden Knights at the T-Mobile Arena.
The 26-year-old from Hamilton has yet to play this season after having knee surgery in the off-season. He was on the ice for practice Monday, however, and was paired with Roman Josi.
“Today was a good practice,” Ellis said. “We’ll see what the coaches have to say and what they want to do with the lineup, but it’s been a long road. A lot of work, a lot of long days. But we’ll see what the coaches have in store.”
Ellis’ return means a shift in defensive pairings for Nashville and some of that was evident on Monday. With Josi and Ellis paired, Mattias Ekholm was moved alongside Anthony Bitetto. Alexei Emelin and P.K. Subban remained a pairing, obviously.
It was initially thought that Ellis would return to play sometime between Christmas and the New Year, but that was not to be. He had been practicing with a non-contact sweater since December 20.
The Predators have done well without Ellis, to say the least. They look like favourites to win the Stanley Cup and are second in the Central Division, with 51 points. That puts them just behind the Winnipeg Jets.
Getting Ellis back in the fold should mean a boost in production from the blueline and that should give the Predators an extra nudge past the Jets.
“He’s been a top-flight defenceman for us,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’ve missed him. He plays a lot of situations and a lot of minutes. A character guy in the room, a character guy on the ice, and when he does come back, we’ll be happy to have him.”
Ellis had 38 points in 71 games last season, including 16 goals. In the 2016-2017 playoffs, he had 13 points in 22 games.
It may take some time to get Ellis up to speed after his return, but his return should pay rather immediate dividends – especially on the Predators’ dangerous third-overall power play. And that, to the opposition at least, is a scary thought.