By Jim Diamond
Last week, Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said that team captain Shea Weber “looked great” after the first two on-ice sessions of training camp, but they would proceed slowly with working him into the lineup for the preseason games. Wednesday marked Nashville’s fourth exhibition contest and also marked the first for Weber.
It was Weber’s first game action since sustaining a knee injury in Game 2 of the Predators’ Western Conference Quarterfinal series with the Chicago Blackhawks on a hit by then Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad. The injury required surgery to correct. The Weber-less Predators fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks in six games.
Wednesday night, Weber got back to doing Weber-like things pretty quickly. At 8:40 of the opening period and with Nashville on the power play, Weber let fly a half slap shot from the high slot that beat Tampa Bay goaltender Adam Wilcox high to the far side. No, it wasn’t one of his familiar one-time bombs from the point, but those will come with time.
During a second period Nashville power play, Weber saw some extended time and did get a chance to air out his one-timer. In the span of 25 seconds, Weber was credited with one shot on goal and another two that missed the target, one of which caused James Neal to duck out of the way. During 5-on-5 play, Weber played a lot with Anthony Bitetto as his defensive partner, but on the power play, he saw some time with his more familiar partner Roman Josi.
After the game, Weber said that more time is needed to work on getting his timing back on his one-timers.
“Jos and I talked about it in between periods,” he said. “Practices have been pretty long where we haven’t had time to stay out there afterwards and work on that kind of stuff, so that will come.”
Weber and Josi finished fourth and fifth respectively in the voting for the Norris Trophy last season. While Weber has finished a close second for the award on multiple occasions, Josi has emerged as another elite blueliner to come through Nashville’s pipeline.
“For the whole team, it’s about getting that chemistry back and getting used to the players next to you again,” Josi said. “That’s what preseason is here for, to get back in game shape.”
Laviolette didn’t tax Weber too much in the game, playing him 19:23, with none coming on the penalty kill.
“He looked great,” Laviolette said. “We kept him off the penalty kill. We got him 5-on-5 time and power play time. We will increase that from here and work him in a little bit more, but I thought for his first game back since last spring, I thought he looked really good.”
Weber recorded three shots on goal in the game along with four that missed the target and another four that were blocked.
After four games played in the span of just four days, the Predators do not play another preseason game until next Tuesday, when former Central Division foe the Columbus Blue Jackets pay a visit to Bridgestone Arena.