Karl Taylor.JPG

Admirals head coach Karl Taylor

It wasn’t that long ago that Nashville Predators captain Roman Josi and Scott Ford were teammates, playing on the same defensive pairing with the Milwaukee Admirals.

But during the Predators’ 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena, Ford was coaching Josi as part of an impromptu Predators coaching staff led by Milwaukee Admirals head coach Karl Taylor after all of Nashville’s bench coaches were placed in the COVID protocol.

“I played with [Ford] when I was in Milwaukee, so for him to be back here and now coaching us, it was pretty special and we’re happy for them,” Josi said. 

“[Taylor and Ford] did an amazing job. They’re such great coaches and I know they do such great work down in Milwaukee. I think you can tell down in Milwaukee and here, we try to run the same system and build the same culture, and you can tell. They came in, they were awesome, they managed the game really well.”

Taylor, who was planning on working with Dan Lambert to coach Nashville’s power play unit, found out once he got to the arena that Predators assistant Dan Hinote, who was initially supposed to serve as head coach Thursday, had tested positive, and suddenly, Taylor himself went from acting special teams coach to acting head coach in a matter of hours.

Fortunately for Taylor, and the players, the Predators and Admirals run the exact same system with the exact same philosophy and nearly identical game plans.

“Throughout the day we had lots of communication with the [Nashville] staff on Zoom from their houses and communicating with us as well as during the game in between periods,” Taylor said. “Not overdoing it but [they were] just there to support us and give us a few pointers here and there depending on what they were seeing watching the game. … They helped us and assisted us but also gave us the room to do what we do in Milwaukee.”

The game itself was a bit precarious.

Nashville, run by an AHL coaching staff, recalled four forwards from the Admirals to offset the loss of seven players in the COVID protocol.

Taylor had to play Tetris with his lineup, bumping Colton Sissons and Tanner Jeannot to the first line, slotting Tommy Novak in to center the second line, Cody Glass (who was sent to Milwaukee to find himself) centered the third line, and the fourth line consisted of only Rocco Grimaldi and Cole Smith. Nashville also rolled with seven defensemen.

Colorado, which got positive results back for some of its players while they were dressing for the game, only fielded 17 players for the game and had to pull MTSU graduate Dustin Smith from the stands to serve as the emergency backup goalie.

Positive tests pulled starting goalie Darcy Kuemper, plus two of the Avalanche’s top four defensemen Cale Makar and Devon Toews and two forwards, Andre Burakovsky and J.T. Compher, out of the lineup.

Colorado was also without captain Gabriel Landeskog and defensemen Ryan Murray, Bowen Byram and Jacob MacDonald due to injuries. The Avs also didn’t have the luxury of calling up any of their AHL players because they would have gone over the salary cap.

Things were so bleak for the Avalanche that the team had to take a locker room vote before the game to decide whether to even play.

“Obviously it was a tough couple of days,” Josi said. “Both teams [had] a lot of things that were out of control but I’m proud of our team and I’m proud of the way we played. … There was a lot of distractions and I think most guys’ mind wasn’t as much on the game today as other things because there’s so much going on, but like I said, we found a way. … Even with everything going on, it was a divisional game against one of the best teams in the league and we came together, found a way to win.”

Nashville’s top line carried the patchwork Predators to their sixth consecutive win. Filip Forsberg’s two-goal, three-point night set the tone while Sissons had three assists and Jeannot added a goal and an assist.

The Predators are now within just three points of the Central Division-leading Minnesota Wild.

“I think [the win] just proves the depth of this organization,” Forsberg said. “Obviously, we’re missing key players, but guys are stepping up, not just from Milwaukee but in the lineup as well. Guys are put in new roles and they’re taking the opportunities and making the best out of them.”

The Predators are scheduled to play the Chicago Blackhawks Friday night at the United Center. As of now, the plan is for Taylor and Ford to resume their acting coaching duties until the Predators coaches are cleared to return.

“We will watch our video and run this like it’s our team with a lot of help and suggestions from the current staff,” Taylor said. “But we will go through business like we always do, Scott and I, and make sure we’re prepared for Chicago.”

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_