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Silence is golden for Preds' free-agent-to-be Suter

by Brian Hedger /
DETROIT -- Ryan Suter's "not talking about it" approach to his pending unrestricted free agency this coming summer even extends to his teammates.

"We just don't talk about it at all in here," Suter said, after Nashville's morning skate on Friday at Joe Louis Arena. "Except for this guy over here [Preds defenseman Kevin Klein]. He's been all over me about it ever since we got here. Won't leave me alone, all of a sudden."

Suter wasn't genuinely upset about Klein's ribbing, but there's a reason the joking seemed to fit perfectly with being in the Motor City. Whenever Suter's potential future destination is discussed these days, it seems like it's always accompanied by talk of the Detroit Red Wings -- who could theoretically be one of the main suitors for Suter in free agency.

Regardless, the July 1 start of free agency is still a long ways off and Suter's Predators are currently sitting in good position to make the playoffs for a third straight season. Nashville is third in the Central Division with 72 points heading into Friday night's game against the Red Wings and would be the fifth seed in the Western Conference if the playoffs started now.

There is still time to try and better that position by catching the teams ahead of them in the standings, which is why Suter decided to put the kibosh on talking about free agency with the media.

"It was a distraction, but I'm not talking about it anymore so it's been good," Suter said. "Every game is such a battle for us. The standings are so tight. We've got a little breathing room now, but now we're trying to catch teams in front of us. We're just focused on catching St. Louis and hopefully catching Detroit some time."

Suter also expressed some interest in bettering the Predators prior to the playoffs via a trade and said that Nashville could be on the verge of making a deep postseason run with the right moves prior to the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

"We've got a good group of guys," Suter said. "We might be a couple pieces away from being an elite team for many years, so hopefully we can continue to improve. That's the biggest thing for us, is continuing to improve and get better. I told [Predators general manager] David Poile: 'We win and everything [else] takes care of itself.' That's what we're focused on. In their meetings, hopefully they're focused on the same thing."

Evidently, the Preds' management group is on the same page as Suter. Poile pulled off a deal on Friday afternoon -- not long after Suter talked to reporters -- to bring in big defenseman Hal Gill from the Montreal Canadiens.

Prior to the announcement of the deal, Suter thought the Predators could not only get past the second round of the playoffs this season, but outright win the Western Conference -- just one year removed from winning their first playoff series. Adding Gill's veteran experience on the blue line can only strengthen that belief.

"You have to go into the playoffs at the top of your game," Suter said. "We've struggled in the last five or six [games], but last game we started to play better and get back to basics. For us to be successful in the playoffs, we've got to continue to improve and get better now. We can't wait for the playoffs, because when you have a young team you can't just flip on the switch. We have to get playing playoff hockey now and hopefully be at the top of our game once we get to the playoffs."
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