There’s any number of reasons that Shea Weber is now the Nashville Predators’ captain.
In general terms, it is his combination of attitude and ability. As for the specifics, well many of those were prominently on display to those on hand Monday for the Predators’ 2-1 preseason victory over the Atlanta Thrashers.
“He was a force out there,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Obviously, he was physical. I thought he made pretty good decisions all night. I thought he stepped up when we needed something to happen on the power play.
“… He was a difference-maker, and that’s what Shea can be.”
The announced crowd for the Predators’ final home appearance before the regular-season opener (Oct. 9 vs. Anaheim) was 10,411. The actual number was significantly lower than that.
Not to worry, though. None of what Weber did against the Thrashers was new to anyone who has seen this team at any time during the previous four-plus seasons, when he was just an up-and-coming defenseman. Paired for the first time this preseason with regular partner Ryan Suter, he had a goal and an assist in addition to a team-high four hits.
“It’s been a long time since we played together, but it was good to get back out there with him,” Weber said. “Now we can just work on getting back to (the way we played) last year.”
His most notable moment was his game-winning goal with 8:58 remaining – a heavy slap shot from the blue line that found its way through traffic and into the back of the net just 16 seconds after the final penalty of the contest was called.
He also had the only assist on Nashville’s other goal. He wound up to uncork a slap shot but changed his mind when he saw a defender in his path. He instead pushed a pass to forward Sergei Kostitsyn, who was unchecked at the front of the net and able to redirect it home just 3:06 into the contest.
“Shea made a real good pass on the first goal, and Kostitsyn had his head up,” Trotz said. “Then, obviously, a power play goal – when he gets pucks through they can find their way in.
“Shea stepped up his game. I asked a lot of the veterans to try to shake the rust off … by playing real hard, playing with some pace. … I thought one thing we did is we got a good start.”
The game was almost finished (there were 35 seconds to play) when Jerred Smithson absorbed a heavy hit along the boards from Atlanta’s Dustin Byfuglien.
Following the contest, Weber said he didn’t think the hit was out of line but during the stoppage in play that followed (Smithson had the wind knocked out of him) he expressed his displeasure to several Thrashers players.
“He’s not all just a big shot and big body checks,” Smithson said. “He can toss the puck; he cane make plays; he’s great all-around. It’s fun to watch him develop into a premier defenseman.”
• Earlier Monday the Predators assigned center Blake Geoffrion, the Brentwood native and 2010 Hobey Baker Award winner, to Milwaukee.
Geoffrion played in two of the first three preseason games. He had one shot on goal and a minus-1 rating.