Ryan Ellis left Game 5 and that could be a problem for Preds

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PITTSBURGH — The Nashville Predators’ defense has been the backbone of their team all season thanks to the NHL’s most dominant top-four.

The quartet of P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm have all logged more than 23 minutes of ice-time per game and helped dictate the pace of every game the Predators have played.

In their Game 5 loss on Thursday night they lost one of those players for most of the game.

Ellis played just 10:44 in the loss and did not record a shift after the 3:58 mark of the second period due to an undisclosed injury.

After the game coach Peter Laviolette was asked if it is a cause for concern, or if it was simply due to the situation (Nashville trailing by four goals early in the second period) and keeping him out as a cautionary measure.

He had no update.

“Yeah, honestly, I don’t have any details to share with you yet,” said Laviolette. “Not that I will.”

The good news for the Predators is they have two days to get ready for Game 6, but there should still be some concern about his availability. If he is unable to go that would be a pretty significant loss for Nashville.

Not only is Ellis one of its big-four on the blue line, he has had a breakout performance offensively with five goals and eight assists. He is currently the Predators’ third-leading scorer this postseason behind only Filip Forsberg and Josi.

The other concern is that Nashville has leaned heavily on that top-four group to play a significant portion of every game, limiting their third pairing of Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber to only 12 minutes per game. When they have played, they have struggled at times.

On Thursday, it was Irwin that took on an increased role in Ellis’ absence and he seemed to have some problems.

If Ellis can’t go, or is less than 100 percent, the Predators will just have to lean that much more on Subban, Josi and Ekholm on Sunday night.