NASHVILLE -- He is one of the best defensemen in the NHL, but it's fair to say that every time Predators captain Shea Weber steps on the ice at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the only kind of No. 1 he will be is public enemy No. 1.
Fans have long memories and Red Wings fans don't have to go far back at all to remember the hit that Weber put on Detroit center Henrik Zetterberg at 20:00 of the third period in Game 1 this past Wednesday. Weber was assessed a roughing penalty and fined $2,500 for, as NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan described it, shoving Zetterberg's head into the glass.
He certainly was treated to some verbal abuse in Sunday's 3-2 win by the Predators in Game 3 at a raucous Joe Louis Arena.
Weber showed it had little effect, playing more than 27 minutes and scoring Nashville's first goal. He also had three hits and three blocked shots.
Whatever treatment Weber receives from visiting fans, Predators coach Barry Trotz said Weber is equipped to handle it.
"He's a guy, he's had a lot of experiences," Trotz said right before Nashville left for Detroit to play in Game 3. "He's a guy that I think handles everything in a business-like and professional manner, and he will do the same going into Detroit.
"When you're a great player, which Shea is, I remember Hall of Famers like [Detroit great Chris] Chelios coming in here -- he wasn't exactly loved here. But at the same time, you loved him for the fact that the other team does get bothered by your presence or you playing or whatever, so you can use that to your advantage. I'm sure he'll be motivated by anything that happens."
The Predators now enter Game 4 with the momentum in this series, winning at Joe Louis during the playoffs for the first time in seven tries. Tuesday, they can attempt to put a stranglehold on this Western Conference Quarterfinal series when they play Game 4.
To do so, Nashville will again need its best players to be their best, as the saying goes. Weber, unquestionably, is one of their best.
This past year, he was a finalist for the Norris Trophy and during the 2011-12 regular season, his 19 goals tied for the League lead by a defenseman as he ranked fifth in average time on ice per game. In his first three games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Weber has picked up where he left off. He has two goals while averaging 26:38 of ice time and posting an even rating.
Weber's first goal came at 4:44 of the third period on Friday in Game 2 and helped Nashville to cut Detroit's lead to 3-2, a gap they could not close before the final buzzer sounded.
As he is inclined to do, Weber moved in from the point, took a pass from center Paul Gaustad from behind the goal and then sent it high into the net with his backhand -- a shot he is less known for than his trademark slap shot that once sent the puck through the twine during the 2010 Olympics against Germany.
Through the first two games, Nashville's major failing had come on the power play. During the regular season, the Preds finished with the League's top-ranked unit, but they had not connected on 12 chances through the first two games. Again, Weber stepped up when needed, scoring the game's opening goal Sunday on the man advantage.
Weber is a major part of the power play, as Nashville tries to set up his shot. Twenty-two of his 49 regular-season points came with the man advantage.
At 1:36 of the first period in Game 2, Weber accepted a challenge from Detroit's Todd Bertuzzi and both players received fighting majors during a sequence in which the officials had signaled for a delayed penalty against Detroit.
That penalty prevented Weber from being a part of his team's first power play -- something that Trotz normally does not want Weber to do, but in this case, the coach understood that there were special circumstances.
"If I knew the future I'd say 'No, don't do that,'" Trotz said. "I knew something was up and sometimes teams will stick up for guys. I probably would say our response would be very similar to Detroit's if something happened to one of our guys and we agreed or disagreed with what was done. There might be a little bit of a response.
"It's part of hockey. It's just sort of that code that sometimes the players have to govern each other and Shea's not going to back down from that. Most times, he'll back away from that because I don't want him [off] the ice, but that was a situation where in the NHL code, unwritten codes we have, sometimes you say 'OK, I get it. I'm here. Let's have closure to this issue and let's move on.' And really that's what happened."
Now, Weber and the Predators need to concentrate on Game 4 and a win that would give them control of this series as it heads back to Nashville for Game 5.
Author: John Manasso | NHL.com Correspondent