NASHVILLE — Their game better and crisper across the board, the Bruins erased the Predators, 2-0, Thursday night at Bridgestone Arana, paced by goals from Jake “The Silent” DeBrusk and Brandon Carlo, along with the airtight goaltending of Jeremy Swayman ( 42 saves).
The victory, improving the Bruins to 12-8-0. came with a price: the loss of Jakub Zboril, the young defenseman who has played well the last 2-3 weeks.
Early in the second period, Zboril had to be helped off the ice after his right leg was injured following a heavy hit along the right wing wall by Predators winger Tanner Jeannot.
Zboril was lost for the final 35:14, forcing acting coach Joe Sacco to pile up the minutes on his remaining five blueliners. It is highly unlikely Zboril will be back in time for Saturday’s game at the Garden vs. Tampa Bay. Connor Clifton, the lone reserve on the roster right now, is the only choice to fill his spot.
“He’ll get re-evaluated [in Boston],” said Sacco. “It’s just a lower-body injury. I don’t know anymore than that.”
Asked if he would be surprised if Zboril could suit up for Saturday’s game vs. the Lightning, Sacco added, “I don’t know, I’m not sure.”
Postgame, the Bruins canceled their Friday practice in Brighton and said, per standard practice, no players or coaches would be available to the media.
Zboril appeared to be in severe pain as he was helped off the ice.
DeBrusk, with only one goal since Oct. 24, struck for his fourth goal of the season on a power play with 5:22 to go before the first break. Postgame, for a second time in 12 hours, he declined a Globe request to be interviewed.
Trailing the play on the left side, DeBrusk walked into a pinpoint cross-slot feed by ex-Predator Craig Smith and nailed a sizzling wrister to the top left corner, short side on Predators goaltender Juuse Saros.
“I thought he was skating well tonight,” said Sacco, asked to assess DeBrusk’s game. “I thought that he competed tonight.”
Not even one minute into the action, Erik Haula, converted from center to left wing, rang a backhander off the crossbar as he skated across the top of the crease. With 5:35 gone, David Pastrnak dinged a post with his one-time slapper from the right circle on a sharp dish by Taylor Hall.
Haula finally looked much more like the player the Bruins believed they were getting when they signed him as a free agent over the summer. He utilized his speed off the wing, asserted himself in the offensive action. He attempted a half-dozen shots and landed two.
“Now try to stay consistent,” he said, “and try to stay on top of my game.”
DeBrusk was one of four forwards, backed by lone point man Matt Grzelcyk, employed on the No. 1 power play unit. Sacco also used Haula, Charlie Coyle and Smith as the second unit’s attackers.
“What a shot by Jake,” Coyle told 98.5 the Sports Hub, during the first intermission. “A big goal to get us going.”
The Bruins needed only 30 seconds of the second period to boost their lead to 2-0, Carlo cashing in with a slapper from high in the right wing circle. Haula picked up the primary assist, but the entire play was made by a stout forecheck by Coyle on the rear wall. His work ultimately led to Haula making the pass that set up Carlo, and Carlo’s shot was helped by an effective screen set up at the top of the crease by Smith.
“That started with our first forward, trying to get in there quick and be physical,’’ Sacco said. “Our second forward did a good job of getting in there to support the forecheck, and we had good depth without a third guy. And also we had someone in front of the goaltender. Smitty did a great job with net-front presence.”
Through 40 minutes, Swayman was a perfect 26 for 26 on saves and then stopped 16 more in the third. It was the type of performance in net the Bruins have been looking for over the first quarter of the season.
He tracked shots, made clean saves without big rebounds, and came up with some of his best stops soon after the Bruins put their goals on the board.
“I think so,” Swayman said when asked if it was his most confident performance of the season. “Between my posts, I felt I wasn’t chasing pucks — a good week of practice, and thought I came out to play tonight, it was nice.”
Zboril exited the action at 4:46 of the second. He handled the hit well enough, but appeared to wrench his right knee or ankle as hit the ice.
Team captain Patrice Bergeron and Hall ultimately helped Zboril get back on his feet and helped him across the ice to the bench. Zboril clearly avoided keeping weight off the leg as he made his way off the ice.
With Zboril out of action, Grzelcyk, Charlie McAvoy, Derek Forbort and Carlo all logged more than 20 minutes of ice time.
McAvoy led the way with 28:45, more than a minute more than Predators workhorse Roman Josi.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.