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Roman Josi standing on his own for Predators

Defenseman thriving in Nashville, even without former partner Shea Weber

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- For Roman Josi, life after Shea Weber began on a summer day that shook the NHL to its core. Weber, the Nashville Predators' longtime captain, was traded to the Montreal Canadiens on June 29 for the larger-than-life personality that is defenseman P.K. Subban.

The trade was so momentous that it almost overshadowed two other major moves that day, forward Taylor Hall going to the New Jersey Devils in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers for defenseman Adam Larsson, and center Steven Stamkos eschewing free agency to sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

For NHL fans, it was a fascinating day of transformative moves.

For Josi, it was far more personal.

He and Weber had been a defensive pair for years. Statistically they were the top offensive duo in the League last season; Josi was fourth in scoring among defensemen with 61 points, and Weber was ninth with 51 points.

Video: WSH@NSH: Josi scores second goal on a power play

Many NHL teams try to pair an offensive defenseman with a defensive-oriented partner. That made the Josi-Weber combination special; it was a blend of two multidimensional players who were strong at each end of the rink.

Josi was home in his native Switzerland when he heard the news of the trade and said he had no inkling the move was afoot.

"It was funny," Josi said Tuesday at Honda Center, recalling that day. "I was plugging in my phone, charging it, and I grabbed it half an hour later and had a bunch of texts on my phone. So I knew something had happened."

Josi and he and Weber spoke briefly shortly after the news broke, with Josi needing time to digest what this meant for Weber, for him and for the Predators.

Weber's influence on Josi's development cannot be overstated.

"He had a chance to play with Shea for years, and they were, in my opinion, the best defensive pairing in the League," Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said.

"After Shea left, a lot of people thought: 'What's going to happen to Roman?' He showed that he can play with anybody and still be successful and be a very important player for us."

Nashville took Josi in the second round (No. 38) in the 2008 NHL Draft. After coming to North America two years later, he played a full season for Milwaukee of the American Hockey League in 2010-11 before joining the Predators for 52 games in 2011-12.

Now in his sixth NHL season, Josi, 26, remains one of the best-kept secrets in the NHL, a player with verve and flair who's capable of playing big minutes without a noticeable drop-off in his play. He has averaged more than 25 minutes per game in ice time in each of the past three seasons, and in 14 Stanley Cup Playoff games last season he averaged 27:57 per game and had nine points (one goal, eight assists).

Video: WSH@NSH: Josi tallies off Forsberg's cross-ice feed

Josi has 38 points (11 goals, 27 assists) in 57 games this season, a transitional one for the Predators. Following Weber's departure, the leadership void needed to be filled from among the remaining veteran group.

"He has done a terrific job," defenseman Ryan Ellis said of Josi. "When you lose a guy like Shea ... I guess he was our rock, you could say, for all the young guys. It was his [locker] room and we tried to fit in with him as much as possible. You learn the do's and don't's with a great leader like that.

"You take that away from the equation and it took us a little while to figure out the locker room again. Once we settled in, we all found our roles and whatnot."

Josi said he isn't exactly sure when that occurred.

"I don't know if there's a certain moment," he said. "You kind of grow into that. We have a great leader in Mike [Fisher]. You try to learn from them and grow into that big role. It's not something you do the next day."

Subban came in and made his presence felt, adding a big personality to the mix. Josi initially was paired with Subban but mostly  has played with Ellis since late October.

The Predators possess enviable scoring balance. They have nine players with 10 or more goals, led by forward Filip Forsberg, one of the League's hottest scorers, and forward Viktor Arvidsson, a 23-goal scorer who has been one of this season's breakout players.

But so much of what Nashville does depends upon Josi's contributions, starting from the back.

Video: DAL@NSH: Josi blasts one-timer for his second goal

"He brings a lot of offense, even starting in our own end, the way he exits the zone," assistant coach Phil Housley said. "His first two or three strides, he's into full speed. He can use his mobility to break down forechecks.

"One of the things that is really one of his big assets is when he comes into the offensive zone, he has an idea of what he wants to do or accomplish. Some guys come into the offensive zone, they get to that area and they don't see a second wave, they don't see who is coming. But he has an idea of what he's going to try to do. It's instinct."

To Ellis, Josi is someone who can do it all.

"He's really the total package," he said. "If there's a player you want to model your game after, it would be [him] for sure."

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