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Decimated Preds lineup survives in Florida…

How depleted was the Nashville Predators roster on Monday night?

Wade Belak was in the lineup.

So… Yeah.

Despite the make-shift roster, Nashville edged the host Florida Panthers 3-2 at Bank Atlantic Center. David Legwand scored his first goal since January 2, Patric Hornqvist bagged his 30 of the season and Francis Bouillon scored his first career overtime winner as the Preds came from behind to get the victory. Goaltender Dan Ellis turned aside 27 of 29 shots.

Yes, you heard that right. Legwand scored a goal. It was his first tally in 85 days, 21 hours, 13 minutes and 51 seconds, prompting the Legwand-O-Meter to come to a screeching halt.

Martin Erat, who fell awkwardly when tangled up with Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom late in the first period on Saturday, was out of the lineup. Captain Jason Arnott, who hasn’t seen action since banging his head on the boards against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 20, was also out of the lineup. Joel Ward, who made the trip to Southern Florida with the team despite Head Coach Barry Trotz saying he’d be out until Thursday, was out of the lineup as well.

Even Pekka Rinne played the back-up role for the first time since the infamous debacle against San Jose on March 11. Ellis hasn’t seen a single minute of action since giving up a back-breaking Sharks goal at 14:40 of the third period, essentially relinquishing any momentum they had just wrestled back off of a game-tying JP Dumont goal just a minute earlier.

Erat (1st), Arnott (4th) and Ward (9th) are all in the top 10 among Predators’ scoring. And Rinne… well… he’s only been the team’s best player since the Olympic break, posting a 9-2-1 record and four shutouts over that time.

At the same time, if you’re going to rest anyone (especially Rinne), this is the game you want to do it in. Not only is it the first game of a back-to-back, but Florida is an Eastern Conference opponent so if you squander the two points it’s not the end of the world. The rest of the way out are games against Western Conference teams, most of which are in direct competition with Nashville for playoff position.

With the win, the Predators further distanced themselves from the Red Wings, currently in 6th place in the Western Conference with 91 points. Nashville sits in 5th with 94.

Detroit and Nashville will go head-to-head at the Joe Louis Arena on Saturday afternoon, probably for full custody of 5th place.

* On Legwand’s goal, Predators rookie Colin Wilson picked up his first point since the Columbus game where Arnott was injured.
* Marcel Goc and Steve Sullivan each assisted on the game-tying and game-winning goals.
* Since Nick Spaling was recalled from the Milwaukee Admirals on March 21, the Predators are 2-1-1.
* With all the injuries for Nashville, the top line consisted of Dumont, Legwand and Wilson.
* Former Pred Tomas Vokoun did not get the start against his old club. Scott Clemmensen was called upon instead.
* With Belak in the lineup, the Preds are 21-16-2 this season.
* Nashville flies home tonight so they can take the ice against the 7th place Los Angeles Kings at Bridgestone Arena tomorrow night. Puck drops at 7pm Central.