Concern for latest Josh Norris injury overshadows Senators’ skid

Juuse Saros turned aside 24 shots, Roman Josi scored twice, including the game-winning goal, and Gustav Nyquist had a three-point night as the Nashville Predators defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1.

Throughout the season, the Ottawa Senators have had this ability to draw their fans in, tease them with a string of strong games and then fall back. 

Tease, disappoint. Tease, disappoint. 

It happened again this week. After putting together an impressive 7-2-1 run that began with a four-game winning streak, the Sens dropped a pair of games on the road, losing by a combined score of 10-4. 

Any thoughts of a rebound from Monday’s 6-3 beatdown in Washington disappeared when Ottawa fell behind in Nashville and eventually lost 4-1. 

Symbolically, the disastrous trip pushed the Senators back into eighth and last place in the Atlantic Division, a point behind Montreal. The Sens have two games in hand on the Habs. 

This season was supposed to be about battling for a top-eight spot in the Eastern Conference, not trying to escape last place in the division. Massive disappointment. 

When it rains, it often pours. Centre Josh Norris, who has a history of major shoulder injury and repair, left the game in the second period with what looked like a damaged shoulder. 

Interim head coach Jacques Martin had no update on Norris after the game. 

Defenceman Thomas Chabot, who has been playing his best hockey of the season, also went to the dressing room late in the third period. He was hit hard into the boards, but there won’t likely be an update on him until the team skates again on Thursday. 

If Chabot is out for any length of time, the defence will be in disarray. Artem Zub remains sidelined on a day-to-day basis, Travis Hamonic has really struggled and Jakob Chychrun has been erratic since his name started to surface in trade talks. 

An egregious tripping penalty by Chychrun led to the second Nashville goal, on the power play. 

Hamonic blew a “tire” and fell, allowing easy passage to the goal late in the second period, which paved the way for Roman Josi’s second goal of the night. That was crushing, coming at 18:31 to restore Nashville’s two-goal lead. 

A power-play goal by Drake Batherson had cut the Predators’ advantage to 2-1, at 18:58 of the first period. It was Batherson’s 20th goal of the season. 

The Senators seemed to have life at this point. But despite outshooting the hosts 11-9 in the second period, the Norris injury and late goal by Nashville sucked whatever life was on the Senators’ bench.  

“The effort was there,” Martin said, in his post-game comments. “It’s a matter of playing more in the offensive zone. When we lost Norris, it affected our line combinations. In the second period, if we could have gotten the tying goal instead of giving them the third goal, it might have given us momentum in the third.”

Joonas Korpisalo allowed four goals on 36 shots. The score could have been worse as he made some impressive stops, including three in the opening minutes of the game. 

Juuse Saros, who continues to be mentioned in trade chatter, stopped 24 of 25 shots as Nashville won its sixth straight game.

[brightcove videoID=6347796067112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

In Ottawa, the two-game losing streak is overshadowed by injuries to individual players, particularly the 24-year-old Norris. 

If the injury to the centreman is serious, there will be concern not just for the player but the person, considering the setbacks he has faced early in his career. 

Since joining the roster full time in 2020, Norris has averaged 45 games per season over the past four years. 

The one anomaly was the 66 games played in 2021-22, in which Norris scored 35 goals and was handed an eight-year, $63.6-million contract. 

Norris played just eight games last season before requiring shoulder surgery. 

After Norris left the game on Tuesday, the Senators seemed to visibly sag, although weary legs also contributed to getting outshot 19-0 in the third period. 

“It definitely affected us a bit,” said Senators captain Brady Tkachuk, of the Norris injury. 

“We wanted to win it for him, but unfortunately we couldn’t.”

With three goals in the past week and 16 on the season, Norris was just coming around with his game after missing most of training camp and having a slow start.

The hit from Predators’ winger Cole Smith seemed routine, shoulder-to-shoulder behind the Nashville net, but Norris’ left shoulder struck the back of the net awkwardly. He stayed down for a moment, left the ice and went straight to the visitors’ dressing room.  

“What happened with Josh, I’m hoping and praying it’s not too bad,” Tkachuk said. “We’ll have to wait and see. At a time like this, you just want to be there as a friend for him.”

If Norris is put on LTIR, it would free up cap space for the Senators as the deadline approaches.

In the meantime, the Senators will have a day off Wednesday before preparing for a Friday visit from the Arizona Coyotes. 

The Senators have 25 games remaining in which to finish on a positive note, but only four games before the March 8 trade deadline. 

Injuries, contracts, pending free agents and an interest in making changes to his roster will all play into the thinking of general manager Steve Staios as the deadline approaches. 

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.