If the Nashville Predators’ power play is an automobile, Ryan Suter is the GPS system.
The young defenseman discovers lanes that might otherwise go unrecognized. He creates opportunities where there is traffic.
“I try to make the right decision, walk the blue line and kind of open things up up top and make the pass,” he said. “…It’s just trying to see the ice.”
His approach is in direct contrast to that of teammate Shea Weber, who is the fuel – a combustible force that can make the things go with his slap shot, which was among the fastest in the league during the NHL’s All-Star festivities.
Increasingly in recent weeks, the Predators have looked to Suter to drive their first power-play unit.
For example, last Saturday at Philadelphia, Suter logged nearly twice as much time on the power play (3:36) than did Weber (2:01). The same was true March 5 against Columbus (2:36-1:23).
In Tuesday’s loss against Washington, it was Weber who spent more time up top when the Predators had the man-advantage.
“(Suter) is a little bit more of a rover, a little bit similar to (Anaheim’s) Scott Niedermayer,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We use him to move around a little bit just to create – hopefully – some different lanes and some different opportunities.
“The (Weber) power play is probably a little more of a shooting (unit). … It gives us options.”
With 15 games remaining Suter and Weber – each drafted in 2003 – share the team lead for power-play points by a defenseman with 13. Suter has two goals and 11 assists, whereas Weber has seven goals and six assists. Only J.P Dumont has more power play assists.
For Suter, that already represents a single-season best. He had 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) last season.
The job is not new to him, though. He was a regular on the power play with the U.S. national team’s developmental program and the one season of college hockey he played at the University of Wisconsin.
“It’s fun to be counted on, to go out there and try to make things happen,” he said. “It’s just a good thing.”
It’s also something different than when Weber, who is tied for ninth in the league for power-play goals by a defenseman, tries to blast the puck through the defense.
“I’m trying to get those guys open so they can make the quick play,” he said. “When the shot opportunity’s there, obviously, I have to take it.”
BRIEFLY: Captain Jason Arnott, injured in Tuesday’s loss to Washington, was not with the team Wednesday due to a previously scheduled personal commitment. Trotz said he expects Arnott to be ready to play Thursday against the New York Rangers. … Goalie Drew MacIntyre, recalled Tuesday as insurance after Pekka Rinne took ill, was reassigned to Milwaukee on Wednesday. MacIntyre did not play against the Capitals.
POWER PLAY POINTS
A rundown of the Nashville Predators’ top power play scorers:
PLAYER POS. G A PTS
J.P. Dumont RW 3 14 17
Jason Arnott C 8 7 15
Ryan Suter D 2 11 13
Shea Weber D 7 6 13
Martin Erat LW 3 10 13