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All-Star nods further validate Preds' top pairing

Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 4:21 PM / 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game

By John Manasso - NHL.com Correspondent

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All-Star nods further validate Preds' top pairing
Opponents have rated the Predators' Shea Weber and Ryan Suter the top defensive combination in the NHL, and validation came this week when both were selected to the All-Star Game.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Throughout the season, opponents have casually commented that the Predators have the League's top defense pair in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.

On Thursday that mythical honor perhaps gained a bit more weight when both players were named to the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game. Weber will play in his third game while Suter, a seven-year veteran selected seventh in the 2003 Entry Draft, is a first-time All-Star.

Shea Weber
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 30
SOG: 117 | +/-: 13
Weber, a finalist for the Norris Trophy last season, leads the Preds in points with 30 (9 goals, 21 assists) and a plus-13 rating in 38 games. Suter ranks second in the NHL in time-on-ice-per-game at 27:00, just 18 seconds behind the New York Rangers' Dan Girardi. Suter, who has 5 goals and 20 assists in playing all 42 games, is a second-generation All-Star. His uncle Gary also earned the honor during a 17-year NHL career.

Forward Craig Smith, who wasn't a sure bet to make the Predators' roster out of training camp, earned a trip to Ottawa from the rookie pool. Smith's 26 points rank him third in the League among rookies.

"I'm really happy for Sutes and Shea -- both of them, in my mind as I've always said, I think they're both going to win the Norris Trophy," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "Sutes gets some recognition that's well-deserved. I think he's having a fantastic year. Webs, as usual, is having a real strong year and a fantastic year, so both are well-deserved."

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Trotz said he thought goalie Pekka Rinne also was deserving while recognizing the difficult job that the League has in selecting the team.

Trotz said he thinks Suter started to gain recognition with his play for the 2010 U.S. Olympic team, which won Silver at the Vancouver Games.

Suter was still trying to digest the news when he met with the media to discuss his selection.

"Yeah, obviously very exciting," he said. "It hasn't sunk in, but very exciting."

With the format of captains drafting the two teams, Suter had a quip ready when asked if he would try to arrange a package deal with Weber so they would both land on the same side.

"No," he said. "Maybe I'll go higher."

Said Weber: "Maybe the captains will have that in mind, knowing that we play together."

Last year Weber finished second in the hardest shot contest at the SuperSkills competition to Boston's Zdeno Chara.

"It's going to be tough to beat the big man," Weber said. "Obviously, he just keeps getting faster and faster each year, so it's going to be hard to beat him. ... Maybe when I'm 34 I'll shoot it as fast as him."

Ryan Suter
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 20 | PTS: 25
SOG: 82 | +/-: 8
Smith seemed the most wide-eyed and truly excited about going. A Madison, Wisc., native, who attended the University of Wisconsin, he said one of his favorite memories was watching Atlanta Thrasher Dany Heatley, who played his collegiate hockey for the Badgers, win the MVP award at the 2003 All-Star Game. Smith was 14 at the time.

"I remember watching that game because he was a former Badger, a fairly young guy when he played in it, so I don't know if I'll live up to that, but I remember watching him," Smith said.

Smith thinks he might like to participate in the fastest skater competition.

"Make sure I don't fall," he said.