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Weber welcomed back into Preds lineup

by John Manasso
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After 13 days and four games, Nashville defenseman Shea Weber will return to the lineup Thursday when the Predators host Dallas, the team against which Weber suffered his concussion on Dec. 23.

Ironically, Nashville went 3-1 without Weber, who was a Norris Trophy finalist last season and is having a Norris-caliber season in 2011-12. Weber still ranks third in the League in points among defensemen with 29 in 35 games. He also is a team-leading plus-14 and averages 26:20 in time on ice per game (fifth in the NHL) for the Predators, who entered Thursday seventh in the Western Conference.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz said that Weber was cleared Wednesday afternoon.

“It’ll be good,” Weber said. “Obviously, the guys have been playing really well, so hopefully I can fit back in and keep it going.”

Trotz was excited about having his franchise defenseman back.

He would boost any team, not only us,” Trotz said. “Trust me. He’s one of those elite defensemen that you don’t really replace. He’s excited to be back.”

Weber said he has had concussions in the past but that he was unsure how many. The injuries have become a hot-button issue not only in hockey, with long absences by some of the game’s top players, including Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and the New York RangersMarc Staal, but also in other contact sports such as football.

Weber said he felt fortunate that he was only out for as short a time span as he was.

“Yeah, I mean, obviously seeing the length of some of these concussions, it’s scary,” Weber said. “I’m excited to be back.”

While it was not a lengthy time by most standards, Weber said it did not seem that way.

“It’s been, obviously, up and down just like everyone talks about,” he said of the rehab. “It’s a long process – it seemed like a long time, it was fairly quick – but just one step at a time, one day at a time.”

The 6-foot-4, 232-pound Weber has advanced to the League’s elite at his position with a physical game. He said the injury would not change how he plays.
“Everything’s fine, obviously,” he said. “I wouldn’t have been cleared to play if it’s not, so it’s going to be. I’m sure I’ll try to get into it early and I’m definitely not going to change the way I play.”

Weber suffered the concussion in a late-game hit with Dallas defenseman Mark Fistric that was not penalized. Both Trotz and Weber said the team would not seek retribution.

The Stars already lead the season series 1-0 and sit only three points behind Nashville with a game in hand so the game has consequence in the standings.

“We need two points,” Weber said. “They’re a very good team. We have to play better than the last time we played against Dallas, so I think we’ll be ready.”
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