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Who will replace Hornqvist now that he’s “out for the rest of this trip?”

When the Nashville Predators played the Anaheim Ducks in Southern California on Saturday, winger Patric Hornqvist had a rough night. He was getting hammered along the boards throughout the contest, he took a Shea Weber slapshot to the inner thigh and then, early in the third period, Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf fell on his left leg while fighting for a puck in the corner (our friends over at On The Forecheck have a great picture of the incident).

Per Josh Cooper of The Tennessean, Nashville’s leading goal scorer last year is “out for the rest of this trip. And maybe longer.”

Not good.

It’s our experience that when Head Coach Barry Trotz puts a timetable on an injury, it’s usually an optimistic view.

The Predators are 0-1-3 so far this year. With a compacted schedule and a truncated season, there’s no time to “work out the kinks.” That being said, if Hornqvist is going to be out for any length of time, they’ll need to make a move. General Manager David Poile isn’t one for knee-jerk reactions so, unless one is already in the works, we can rule out a trade. At least at this point. Which limits them to the Milwaukee Admirals, Nashville’s AHL-affiliate.

But who would take Hornqvist’s place? He fits a very specific role on the club and the system isn’t exactly overrun with wingers who can score and/or park themselves in front of the net and willingly take abuse night after night.

Prospects like Taylor Beck, Patric Cehlin and Austin Watson could get a look. All three are among the Admirals’ leaders in scoring and all three have shown a lot of promise this year. Chris Mueller, who has donned a Preds sweater in season’s past, could also get the call. The issue with all four of these options, however, is that none of them play the style of game that Hornqvist plays. Not to mention Watson and Mueller are centers and Nashville is looking for a winger.

Michael Latta could be an option. He’s a tough customer who never takes a shift off and who can also contribute offensively, a la Hornqvist. Both Trotz and Poile have compared him to a more-productive Jordin Tootoo, however. Not exactly a match.

But there’s a more likely option: Brad Winchester.

The former second round pick of the Edmonton Oilers signed to a PTO (professional tryout) contract with the Admirals on January 22. He’s played in three games and amassed five points. A veteran NHL winger like Winchester filling Hornqvist’s skates would seem pretty attractive to the Predators but there’s an issue. If they decide Winchester, 31, is the way to go, they have to sign him to an NHL deal and, therefore, are stuck with him for the rest of the season.

With Latta, they could at least send him back down to the Admirals once Hornqvist returns to the lineup. Worst case scenario, Latta doesn’t work out, they can swap him out with another one of the prospects without consequence. If they use Winchester, he’s here to stay.

For the current road trip, they Preds could look at the current roster. Brandon Yip, for example, filled in for Hornqvist on the power play last season. But is he a long-term solution? Absolutely not.

We should find out soon what Nashville’s plan of attack is.

UPDATE (9:09am): Seth Lake has floated free agent winger Petr Sykora as a possible replacement. He was a 44-point guy as a 35 year old on the New Jersey Devils last year and could certainly fill the void. Would he be a perfect match? No. But the Predators would get more value out of him than Winchester. He’s been a consistent 40+ point guy during in his 1,017 game NHL career, he’s scored 20+ goals in all but one of his past 12 seasons and is a versatile player who can play both ends of the ice. If Poile is willing to look outside the organization, Sykora could be a nice answer. Sykora did, however, sign with Bern of the Swiss League this morning. Is there an NHL opt-out clause in the deal? We’ll see. (stick tap to Hunter Armstrong for the tip)

PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Fuqua (used with permission)