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Predators' Josi had season worthy of Norris talk

by Robby Stanley /

NASHVILLE -- Defenseman Roman Josi embodies the makeup of the Nashville Predators heading into 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He's young, talented and has relatively limited experience in the postseason.

Josi was a big part of the Predators returning to the playoffs after missing out the previous two seasons. He was third on the Predators with 55 points and his play put him in the Norris Trophy conversation for the first time in his career, and will be a big part of the Predators' playoff push, which starts with Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, SN360, CSN-CH, FS-TN).

He played in 10 games in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Predators advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals. He was a rookie at the time, and the speed and emotional grind of the playoff run left an impact on him.

"Playoffs are just a different thing," Josi said. "I don't have a lot of playoff games. I played just one [playoff run], and it's just an up and down in feelings, like a new high and a new low. You've just got to find kind of that middle balance. It's a grind but it's definitely a lot of fun. I had a great time playing playoffs so I'm definitely excited."

The Predators have tried to find that middle balance all season long of not getting too high after a win or too low after a loss. Josi said he feels that approach will become even more important in the playoffs, given the twists and turns of a best-of-7 series.

"It doesn't matter what happens," Josi said. "If you lose or if you win you can't get too high or too low. Sometimes it's a seven-game series and you've just got to find a way to win four games. It doesn't matter how you get there. You've got to make sure you stay even-headed and just keep going your way."

Josi has the ability to skate his way out of trouble. His can take the puck from the defensive zone to the offensive zone and establish possession for Nashville's offense, a big reason he had career-highs of 15 goals and 55 points.

"I think it's been one of our biggest assets is our defenseman being able to move that puck, and Roman certainly is a guy that can take the puck," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's done it all year. He gets it, he can skate it. When you do that, you open up a lot of different options, whether it be to add to the rush, open up seams for passing lanes, gain zones. There's lots of positives that come from it, but Roman's been excellent."

Josi said his mobility and puck-possession skills will match well against the Blackhawks.

"They like to play fast," Josi said. "I think we're a fast team too, so we definitely like to play a fast game. That's why I think they're always good games in the regular season between us and they're always tight games. We kind of play a similar way. It's going to be a fun series."

Josi's defense partner, Shea Weber, spent the first part of his career playing alongside defenseman Ryan Suter. Weber said he and Suter had so much chemistry that they didn't even have to talk to each other on the ice; they just knew where the other was going to be at all times.

Weber and Josi have been playing together for three seasons and have reached that kind of on-ice relationship. They finished the regular season in the top five in the League in average time on ice at more than 26 minutes per game and will see a lot of ice time against Chicago's top line, centered by Jonathan Toews.

"When you play with someone for so long like I said with Ryan, you know what each other are going to do," Weber said. "You still try and talk and help each other out but it's definitely to the point where I kind of know what he's doing and I think it's the same for him."

Josi's regular season catapulted him into the conversation when the League's elite defensemen are discussed. A first-round playoff win against the Blackhawks and a deep postseason run would add to that conversation.

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