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On the prowl

With 15 points in 23 games, Shea Weber is second in Nashville scoring as the team sits second in the Central. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

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With 15 points in 23 games, Shea Weber is second in Nashville scoring as the team sits second in the Central. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

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.

THE HOCKEY NEWS POWER RANKINGS
RK.
TEAM
LW
OVERALL
L10
THE SCOOP
1
San Jose Sharks
1
18-6-4
6-2-2
Penalty killing is first in the NHL, power play is fourth
2
New Jersey Devils
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
Pittsburgh Penguins
5
18-9-0
6-4-0
Are we witnessing Sidney Crosby's first 40-goal season?
4
Washington Capitals
3
15-5-6
6-2-2
Brooks Laich could hit 70 points this year; he's gone from highly effective to fantastic
5
Calgary Flames
7
16-6-3
6-2-2
Have scored the first goal of the game 20 of 25 times this year
6
Chicago Blackhawks
2
16-6-3
8-1-1
Play 10 of 15 at home in December; time to stretch out that Central Division lead
7
Nashville Predators
13
15-9-1
8-2-0
Staying healthy has helped this team become one of the NHL's toughest draws
8
Boston Bruins
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
Los Angeles Kings
9
15-10-2
5-5-0
Andrei Loktionov hurt his shoulder in his NHL debut and will be out four months. Ouch
10
Buffalo Sabres
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
Atlanta Thrashers
19
13-7-3
7-1-2
Hands up if you had Maxim Afinogenov penciled in for about 75 points this year
12
Tampa Bay Lightning
18
10-6-8
5-2-3
Will get a boost with Mattias Ohlund's imminent return to the lineup
13
Philadelphia Flyers
6
13-10-1
4-6-0
Projected contender finished November with a 7-6-0 mark
14
Dallas Stars
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
Phoenix Coyotes
17
15-11-1
5-4-1
Mikkel Boedker has two assists in two games since being called up from the American League
16
Ottawa Senators
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
Detroit Red Wings
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
Vancouver Canucks
20
14-12-0
5-5-0
Henrik Sedin is on pace for 44 goals this year; his previous career high is 22
19
Colorado Avalanche
15
14-8-5
2-5-3
David Jones, who has 10 goals, is done for the season with a torn ACL
20
New York Rangers
22
13-12-1
4-6-0
Lost consecutive road games Friday and Saturday by a combined score of 13-4
21
Anaheim Ducks
26
10-11-4
4-4-2
Corey Perry sets a new franchise mark with points in 18 straight games
22
St. Louis Blues
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
Columbus Blue Jackets
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
Montreal Canadiens
23
12-12-2
4-4-2
Play 17 games in December and just six of them at home
25
Toronto Maple Leafs
29
6-11-7
4-4-2
Averaging a league-high 34.7 shots per game
26
Minnesota Wild
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
New York Islanders
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
Florida Panthers
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
Edmonton Oilers
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
Carolina Hurricanes
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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