NASHVILLE - The losses keep piling up for the Maple Leafs, both on the ice and on the bench.
The latest came Thursday night here in Music City U.S.A. when the tough-checking Predators played a hurtin’ tune on the visitors, one that ended in a 4-1 victory.
Perhaps worse for the injury-ravaged Leafs was the loss of yet another pair of bodies — forward Matthew Lombardi and defenceman Mike Komisarek — that has created a near medical emergency with the club.
Lombardi, who played just two games last season with the Preds before suffering a season-ending concussion, left the game with an apparent shoulder or arm injury in the second period and did not return. With Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur sidelined in Tuesday’s home loss to Phoenix, the Leafs are now alarmingly short up front.
And just to add some balance to the walking wounded, Komisarek also left the game early in the third after blocking a shot.
All coach Ron Wilson would reveal was that both players suffered “upper-body” injuries, but all signs point to them being gone from game action for some time.
Lombardi was seen leaving the arena with his left arm in a sling. Komisarek, meanwhile, appeared to be favouring his right arm or hand.
With two games this weekend, at home to Washington on Saturday and at Carolina to start a four-game road trip on Sunday, general manager Brian Burke will have a busy day Friday filling the lineup.
“It’s really unfortunate considering the injuries we’ve already got,” said defenceman John-Michael Liles, who had the only Leafs goal, a power-play score to briefly tie things in the second period.
“It’s a matter of the guys in this room stepping up and the guys who are getting the chances to make the best of them.”
With Grabovski and MacArthur both out, the Leafs got some help with Tim Connolly’s return on Thursday but obviously more recruits will be needed from the Marlies.
Nazem Kadri is one obvious candidate and the Leafs would love centre Joe Colborne, who is coming off an injury, to be healthy. Mike Brown, who was a healthy scratch for the first time this season on Thursday, is sure to return.
Despite what was a lopsided loss on the scoreboard only, the Leafs put together a solid effort in front of rookie goaltender, Ben Scrivens.
Even with the short bench in the third, the Leafs managed 22 shots on Preds’ all-world netminder, Pekka Rinne, who stopped 38 on the night.
At the start of the game, Scrivens faced just two shots in the opening 13 minutes and one of those was a rolling dump-in from the neutral zone.
“That might be the best game we played all season from start to finish,” said Wilson, after his team dropped its third in a row and fifth in the past six. “Their goalie came up huge. I thought we dominated most parts of the game.”
A pair of goals, one in the first and another in the third, by Martin Erat, were all the scoring the Preds would need. A wrister through traffic by Ryan Suter and an empty netter from Matt Halischuk rounded out the scoring.
Still clearly perturbed at the reporting of starting goalie James Reimer’s injury, which is about to hit four weeks, Wilson was terse in response to questions about Komisarek and Lombardi.
“Upper body and upper body, that’s all the information you are getting,” Wilson said. “They are all concerning. We’ll see when we get back and our doctors look at them.
“There’s nothing you can do. You just play on with whoever you bring up or guys in the lineup who aren’t playing.”
Rinne, meanwhile, was near invincible in the Preds’ strategy which seems to be to allow the first shot and rely on their big defencemen to clear the puck.
“I wish I didn’t have to see him play so good,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s had stretches where he has been fabulous.”
Rinne certainly had some help in front of him, as superstar defenders Suter and Shea Weber were matched up against NHL leading scorer, Phil Kessel all night. Kessel and line mate Joffrey Lupul still managed six and five shots respectively but couldn’t thwart the 6-foot-5 monster, who has played in all but one Predators games this season.
“We fired a lot of pucks at Rinne,” Scrivens said. “I was really happy with the effort in front of me. Maybe I just got outduelled tonight.”