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Olympic effort shined light on Predators' Suter

by Dan Rosen
Ryan Suter knows precisely when and where he transitioned from being a relatively unknown, yet solid NHL defenseman playing in the shadows of an emerging star to the famous and perennial All-Star defenseman the Nashville Predators can't win without.

"The Olympics up in Vancouver, playing on that big stage, it really helped people see me differently," Suter told "Playing with Shea (Weber), he's got the big shot, he's the captain and he throws the big hit, so I think sometimes I get overlooked. That's fine. He's a great player. He should get the recognition. But I think Vancouver helped me with that."

Suter played the most minutes of any U.S. player at the 2010 Olympics. He finished with 4 assists and a plus-9 rating to help Team USA take home a silver medal.

"Every year he gets more and more confidence. When he plays with that confidence, I think he's as good as anyone in the League. He's smart, he skates so well that he gets himself out of trouble. You don't see a lot of mistakes out of him." -- Shea Weber

He's been on the fast track to stardom ever since.

Suter, who currently is nursing an upper-body injury that has kept him out of the last two games, earned his first career All-Star Game invitation earlier this month. He won't reveal what the injury is, but he's hopeful it won't stop him from getting a chance to experience the upcoming four-day festivities in Ottawa.

"I'm not sure if proud is the word, but I'm elated to be a part of it," Suter said. "Go there and have fun and enjoy it and take it all in. The thing I don't want to happen is be picked last (at the Molson Canadian All-Star Player Fantasy Draft), I guess."

Suter doesn't need to play in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game for hockey fans to know who he is. They just have to watch any Predators game and see how important of a role he plays for that team.

He has 25 points, including 20 assists, and a plus-7 rating in 45 games this season while leading Nashville in average time on ice per game (26:30). Only Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, a fellow All-Star, plays more minutes per game (27:15) than Suter.

"Ryan's a little under the radar, but if you talk to (Rangers coach) John Tortorella, he knows how good he is," Trotz said the day after the Rangers beat the Suter-less Predators 3-0. "He says, 'I was sure glad he wasn't playing (Tuesday).' You realize how good he is. I know the people in the hockey business really know how good Ryan Suter is. He does a lot of those subtle things."

The subtlety of Suter's game is what makes him such a consistent threat. He doesn't possess any one single great weapon (such as Weber's shot), but he plays a silky-smooth game that allows him to do everything well.

That's why, when healthy, he works so well as Weber's defense partner. When he's not healthy, as Suter hasn't been since he had to leave Monday's game against the Islanders after the first period, the Predators are a totally different team.

For example, Nashville took a 3-0 lead against the Islanders when Suter was in the game, but they were outscored by the Islanders and Rangers by a combined 4-0 in the next five periods. They got back on track without Suter in Thursday's 3-0 win in Columbus.

Suter remains day-to-day; the Predators host Chicago on Saturday.

"You can tell when he's not out there because he is that calming force," Predators center Mike Fisher told "He is so patient, sees the ice so well. He kind of does everything well."

Trotz said Suter compares well to his uncle, former NHL player and U.S. Olympian Gary Suter, who played in over 1,100 NHL games and produced more than 800 points.

"Shea is a loud player. He's that Scott Stevens-type with an Al MacInnis shot. Those are things that are legendary-type things that people talk about," Trotz said. "Sutes is that Nick Lidstrom, Gary Suter, Chris Chelios blend. He's physical and he's nasty, but he does it in such a subtle way that he flies under the radar.

"I always say Sutes has a lot of polish in his game. He's got great escapability, great poise and patience. He makes everything look so easy and efficient. Sometimes that goes a little undetected."

Suter prefers it that way, on and off the ice. He said he doesn't mind living in Weber's shadow because it's big enough that he can go about his business without too many distractions -- except, of course, all the contract talk that is swirling around him these days.

He can be an unrestricted free agent after the season, but Suter said he likes Nashville and wants to be there. Part of the reason is Weber, who can be a restricted free agent after the season.

"I really like Shea. We're really good friends," Suter said. "We are close, we hang out, we talk all the time about different things, and I think we play well together. I love seeing him succeed. Last year, when he made the All-Star Game, he came up to me and said, 'Sutes, this is for us, couldn't have done it without you.' He says things like that, so for me it's good when he succeeds."

The same holds true for Weber.

"Every year he gets more and more confidence," Weber told "When he plays with that confidence, I think he's as good as anyone in the League. He's smart, he skates so well that he gets himself out of trouble. You don't see a lot of mistakes out of him."

Or flash, but that's what Suter's consistent, under-the-radar game is all about.

He had to shine on the brightest international stage for anyone outside of Nashville to notice.

"Shea has gotten most of the publicity, but Ryan is a tremendous leader and a tremendous asset for Shea," Trotz said. "His first coming-out party was the Olympics."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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