Ryan Suter knows he does not have the last word. The veteran Nashville Predators defenseman intends to have his say, though.
Suter expressed a clear displeasure in the manner he and the other blue liners were used in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Suter said. “We’re going to have to have a little talk with [the coaches] and figure it out. We need to know who we’re playing with. It’s too hard on young guys to not know who you’re playing with.”
As they have done in recent outings, coaches broke up the elite tandem of Suter and Shea Weber at the start of Saturday’s contest. Weber began opposite rookie Roman Josi and Suter was paired with Jonathon Blum.
Suter and Weber were back together on the first shift after a Josi error in the neutral zone led to a goal that gave Buffalo a 2-0 lead with 2:33 remaining in the first period.
At the start of the second period, the initial pairings were back in place — but they did not stay that way. Pairings shuffled back and forth throughout the remainder of the contest.
“Suter and Weber are giving us all our offense, [and] they’re giving us all our defense,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We tried to put them back and generate some more offense with them on the back end a little bit. The other pairs have to stand on their own a little bit and contribute a little bit more.”
Weber and Suter are third and fourth, respectively, on the team in scoring behind only forwards Craig Smith and David Legwand. Each has five goals and Weber has 13 assists, one more than Suter.
The two also are — far and away — the team leaders in plus-minus. Weber is plus-15, Suter is plus-12 and no one else is better than plus-3. The rest of Nashville’s defensemen are a combined minus-35.
“We tried to get a little more balance in terms of giving some support to some of our younger guys,” Trotz said of the approach against Buffalo. “Then when we fell behind, we started putting the pairs back together.
“We’ll probably have to [scramble the pairings as needed] some more. … Certain teams … we might just want to stack up Suter and Weber against their top line. We’ll have to play each game as an individual case."
Assistant Peter Horachek is the one responsible for calling the defensive pairs during play.
“Whatever they call, you have to be ready for that,” Weber said. “… It’s different. Obviously, every guy’s here for a reason and good enough to play in the NHL. You have to use more communication and get used to each other quickly.”
Ultimately, Suter and Weber, who have played together for years, ended up with a team-high 26 shifts each against the Sabres. Suter led all skaters for either side with 28:11 of ice time and Weber was on the ice for 26:08.
Buffalo’s last two goals, however, came with Blum and Josi on the ice. Suter and Blum were together when the Sabres scored their first.
“We’ll have to figure it out,” Suter said. “… It’s tough when you don’t’ know who’s up and then you change your partner. So we need to … we’ll figure that out.”