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Shea Weber eyes possible spot on Canada's roster for 2010 Olympics

Shea Weber figures the road to Vancouver runs through Nashville.

While there isn't an NHL defenceman with better individual stats so far this season, Weber thinks the best thing he can do to impress the decision-makers for Canada's 2010 Olympic team is help the Predators have success this season.

That's certainly his plan.

"(The Olympics) are definitely a goal but it's something I can't think about," Weber said this week. "I've got to take care of the business here in Nashville and just continue to work hard and get better. We have to be successful and play long years, make the playoffs. That'll only help.

"We'll just kind of see what happens for 2010."

There should be a number of things working in his favour.

Weber is just 23 years old and finds himself leading all defencemen in scoring with 10 goals and 23 points in 24 games. On top of that, everyone from Don Cherry to Predators coach Barry Trotz have recently suggested that Weber is now among the best blue-liners in the league.

"In terms of offence he's obviously doing a good job, but physically he's separating people from pucks," Trotz told the Tennessean last week. "He's being a force out there. He's having major impact in games."

The biggest thing that stands out when you review video highlights of his goals is the booming shot that directly led to a large number of them.

It can be traced all the way back to the time that Weber's dad decided to purchase an old net from the local arena in Sicamous, B.C., and turn his boys loose. They'd practise for hours and hours.

"Me and my brother would tie cans up for targets," said Weber. "We'd take (the net) out in the yard with a piece of plywood and just shoot and mess around. In the winters, we'd flood the yard to make a little rink and work on it that way.

"I'd like to say that I'm gifted but nobody in my family has really played a whole lot of hockey. I just worked on it and it's kind of come over the years as I've gotten bigger and stronger."

Weber is one of several NHL defencemen that have recently made the leap from the WHL's Kelowna Rockets. Among his former teammates in the WHL are Duncan Keith, Kyle Cumiskey and even Luke Schenn for a brief time.

The organization has played a major part in all of their success.

"I think it's timing," said Weber. "The group of guys that we had there were all great junior players and obviously great pros that have grown and developed. The Rockets organization has done a tremendous job with us."

One of his own highlights as a pro came at the 2007 IIHF World Hockey Championship in Russia, where he won a gold medal with the Canadian team that was put together by Steve Yzerman - the man who will also assemble the 2010 Olympic team.

It was the last time he wore the Maple Leaf.

"That was something I'll never forget," said Weber.

The most rewarding part of his strong start this season is the fact that it came after a tough year. He dislocated a kneecap in the opening game of last season and suffered a high ankle sprain not long after returning the lineup.

Weber missed 28 games in all and admits that he struggled to get on track.

"It's not just physically degrading, it's mentally degrading," he said. "You work hard all summer and you're excited for the start of the season and you go down in the first game. It's kind of tough to swallow, especially when you work hard to get back from that injury and you're out again for another couple weeks.

"It's tough to get past that. It really takes a toll on you."

Times have certainly changed.

He's already put up more goals and points than last season and is on pace to obliterate his previous career highs in both those categories. Weber chalks much of the success up to natural progression.

"A lot of it's got to do with just being one year older," he said. "I'm just that much more confident."


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