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David Legwand's injury leaves uncertainty at center for Nashville

[David] Legwand was walking without apparent difficulty and said he was feeling "good."

-- An OtF reader who traveled to Montreal for last night's game, reporting from the airport there.

Nashville fans have been waiting to see what a healthy Predators team could do for weeks now, so when David Legwand hobbled off the ice after being ridden into the boards by Montreal defenseman Roman Hamrlik in the first period last night, it was a case of "here we go again". 

UPDATEVideo of the Hamrlik-Legwand hit is now available.

This afternoon, Josh Cooper of The Tennessean brought word that Barry Trotz describes Legwand's status as "day to day", which doesn't really tell us much as to whether Leggy is expected to suit up tomorrow night at Carolina. Matthew Lombardi was described originally as day-to-day following his tumble into the boards in Chicago, and he's likely weeks away from returning. Back on November 1st, Francis Bouillon, Jordin Tootoo, and Martin Erat were all described as "day to day". Bouillon and Tootoo continued to play two nights later, but Erat was suddenly held back at all from going on the team's western road trip, and missed the next four games.

That fan's-eye view from the airport is one good sign, at least, and it's more specific information than we'll get through official channels. The modern NHL treats injury issues like atomic weapons secrets, so it's not like the Preds are doing anything unusual here, but it is certainly frustrating. Hopefully, Legwand can still play on whatever's bothering him and will simply skip practices and morning skates to let it recover more quickly, using the oft-cited "maintenance days" (in which I picture players hoisted on lifts in the depths of Bridgestone Arena, while lab techs re-align joints and perform diagnostic tests).

If Legwand's unable to go, however, what should the Predators do at center? Obviously O'Reilly and Goc are running the top two scoring lines, leaving two spots available between three possible contenders on the current roster - Jerred Smithson, Nick Spaling, and Colin Wilson. Smithson is at least used to battling tough opponents on a checking line and playing alongside Joel Ward, so he's an option, and Spaling has been fairly effective in a limited role on the 4th line and PK unit. So does Wilson continue to linger in a marginal role?

Remember, before Matthew Lombardi was acquired in free agency, there was a lot of talk from the organization about Wilson stepping up as a center in the wake of Jason Arnott's departure.

David Poile said the plan was to put him "in an opportunity to see if he can take over for Jason" and Paul Fenton added, "It's a natural progression to have him take over the #1 [center] position."

 I thought at the time that this was premature:

Nashville now boasts a depth chart at center of Wilson, followed by David Legwand, Marcel Goc, and Cal O'Reilly. Does anyone else see a problem here?

If David Poile puts the salary cleared by moving Arnott to good use by picking up an established NHL center, the team could very well be positioned to take a step forward this fall. If that trade is left to stand on its own, however, and relying on promotion from within is indeed the plan, then it's an unmitigated disaster for the 2010-11 Nashville Predators. Maybe, just maybe, things will work out in the long run, but in the short term, I just don't see it.

There was at least intent to avoid such a "disaster" with the Lombardi signing, and hopefully he'll recover 100% from his concussion to take this team to the level we've all been hoping to see. In the meantime, however, we have a disconnect between what the team was saying about Wilson this summer, and how he's being used today. Rather than grooming him for an offensive role (he's getting a little PP work, but stands 7th among Nashville forwards who've played regularly), he lingers on the perimeter, getting around 10:00 of total ice time a night.

Are you concerned not to see more out of Colin Wilson on the ice these days? I know I am.

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