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On the prowl

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

One of the best self-effacing lines you’ll hear from a team’s scouting staff when they’re being applauded for mining a late-round gem in the draft is, “If we’re so smart, why didn’t we take him sooner?”

Maybe that’s how the Nashville Predators feel about Shea Weber, who was the third defenseman they drafted in 2003. Before nabbing Weber with the 49th overall pick, the Preds grabbed Ryan Suter at No. 7 and Kevin Klein 12 slots ahead of Weber at No. 37.

On a team defined by defense, Suter sees the most average ice time per game at 24:07, while Weber is close behind at 23:32. But Klein, who’s proving he belongs on an NHL blueline corps, has seen a huge spike in his ice time as well, now playing more than 20 minutes a game.

While only Boston and Carolina have averaged less than Nashville’s 2.36 goals per game this year, the ever-present team commitment to defense under coach Barry Trotz has helped the Preds pull ahead of everybody except Chicago in the Central Division.

Of course, a big part of what makes Nashville so tough to face is the strong play of goalie Pekka Rinne, taken 258th in 2004. That may not have been the smartest pick, but it sure was a good one.

RK.

TEAM

LW

OVERALL

L10

THE SCOOP

1

1

18-6-4

6-2-2

Penalty killing is first in the NHL, power play is fourth

2

4

17-6-1

7-2-1

Still waiting for Martin Brodeur to break Terry Sawchuk's all-time shutout mark, though he has now played more minutes than any other goalie in league history

3

5

18-9-0

6-4-0

Are we witnessing Sidney Crosby's first 40-goal season?

4

3

15-5-6

6-2-2

Brooks Laich could hit 70 points this year; he's gone from highly effective to fantastic

5

7

16-6-3

6-2-2

Have scored the first goal of the game 20 of 25 times this year

6

2

16-6-3

8-1-1

Play 10 of 15 at home in December; time to stretch out that Central Division lead

7

13

15-9-1

8-2-0

Staying healthy has helped this team become one of the NHL's toughest draws

8

12

13-8-5

6-1-3

With teams forced to devote front-line checkers to Marc Savard, can David Krejci get his game on track?

9

9

15-10-2

5-5-0

Andrei Loktionov hurt his shoulder in his NHL debut and will be out four months. Ouch

10

11

14-7-2

5-4-1

Paul Gaustad has become quite a presence for this team, especially in front of the net on the power play

11

19

13-7-3

7-1-2

Hands up if you had Maxim Afinogenov penciled in for about 75 points this year

12

18

10-6-8

5-2-3

Will get a boost with Mattias Ohlund's imminent return to the lineup

13

6

13-10-1

4-6-0

Projected contender finished November with a 7-6-0 mark

14

16

12-7-7

5-4-1

Remember when Fabian Brunnstrom was going to tear up the NHL? He has one goal this year

15

17

15-11-1

5-4-1

Mikkel Boedker has two assists in two games since being called up from the American League

16

14

13-7-4

3-4-1

Current five-game trip would be a great time for Jason Spezza to score his first road goal this season

17

8

12-9-4

5-4-1

With so many injuries, Wings could sure use more than three goals from Todd Bertuzzi, though he did pop the shootout-winner versus St. Louis on Saturday

18

20

14-12-0

5-5-0

Henrik Sedin is on pace for 44 goals this year; his previous career high is 22

19

15

14-8-5

2-5-3

David Jones, who has 10 goals, is done for the season with a torn ACL

20

22

13-12-1

4-6-0

Lost consecutive road games Friday and Saturday by a combined score of 13-4

21

26

10-11-4

4-4-2

Corey Perry sets a new franchise mark with points in 18 straight games

22

25

10-9-5

5-3-2

After losing to Detroit on Saturday, the Blues winning percentage at home is .393; compare that with their .722 mark on the road.

23

10

12-9-4

4-4-2

Finally have a good power play (best in the league at 26 percent), but winning results aren't following

24

23

12-12-2

4-4-2

Play 17 games in December and just six of them at home

25

29

6-11-7

4-4-2

Averaging a league-high 34.7 shots per game

26

27

10-12-3

5-2-3

Wild fans give Derek Boogaard a standing ovation for picking up his first point (an assist) in almost a year

27

24

10-10-7

4-4-2

Followed up a huge win over the Pens by laying an egg versus the Devils, getting shellacked 6-1

28

21

10-11-4

5-2-3

Not exactly a lock-it-down team; Cats are a league-worst 4-2-3 when leading after two

29

30

10-13-4

2-5-3

Maybe the compensation for losing Ales Hemsky for the rest of the year will be a top-three pick in the draft

30

28

5-16-5

3-5-2

Even Eric Staal can't save this team as Canes lose three straight upon his return to the lineup

The Hockey News ranks the teams 1-30 each Monday based on a combination of last week’s play and a squad’s overall outlook.

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