When Roman Josi and Yannick Weber were growing up playing hockey together in Switzerland, a city in Tennessee was never a thought.
Sure, there were dreams of the two friends perhaps skating together one day in the Swiss League, but together in the NHL? Realistically thinking, probably not.
But now when Josi looks down to his right just a couple of stalls in the Nashville Predators locker room, there's Weber, the guy Josi's known since they were children, willing to see how far this hockey thing could take them.
"It's crazy when you think about it," Josi said of skating on the same club with one of his best friends over 4,600 miles from home.
What's not as unbelievable is the role Weber has played over the course of a season that has almost concluded, his first with the Preds after signing a one-year deal this past summer. The 28-year-old Weber isn't going to see his name on the score sheet as much as his fellow countryman, but what he is going to do - and has done for 71 games - is provide a solid, steady presence on the backend for Nashville, just what's been asked of him since he arrived.
"He's been very reliable, very durable," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Weber. "When we've had guys go down - we've had a lot of defensemen in and out of the lineup - he's been a real constant for us. He's a competitive guy, he skates well and he's done a really good job with coming in here and taking down minutes for us."
Video: NSH@STL: Weber threads wrister through traffic in 2nd
As Laviolette alluded to, Weber has seen just about every spot on the blue line for the Preds over the past few months due to various injuries to fellow defensemen like Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban and Josi and different points. Combine that with coming to a new city and a new team and Weber admits there was an adjustment period to start the campaign.
Over time, however, the combination of Weber acclimating to his surroundings on and off the ice, plus the return to health for Nashville's blueliners has made all the difference in Weber getting the most out of his game on a nightly basis.
"Over the last 10 to 20 games, I felt like I've been more involved," Weber said. "I've been able to contribute a little more offensively and been steady defensively."
A reason for that comfort is the consistency of skating alongside Matt Irwin on what has become the Predators third pairing. They're not relied upon to hit the 25-minute mark like Ellis or Josi might, but that doesn't diminish their importance to not only the defensive group, but the team as a whole.
"I think if you talk to the coaches, for Matty and I as a third D pair, I think they want to still be solid, be reliable," Weber said. "You don't have to be too fancy. They want us to be fairly simple, but if we can be part of the offense, try to create something, they welcome that, too. I think we have been doing a pretty good job with that."
Like Weber, who came to Nashville via Vancouver looking for a bounce-back season, Irwin did the same after departing the Boston organization. The two have both found a resurgence in Music City and Irwin believes they feed off one another as a pair, making both individuals better.
"Consistency is one of the first things that comes to mind," Irwin said of Weber. "Playing with him, he brings it every night. He has the ability to play up and down the lineup, he skates extremely well, so he can skate himself out of trouble, he's got a great shot and he can hop up in the rush. He complements me very well, plus, we talk a lot on the bench and on the ice, and I think that's benefited us both."
Laviolette and his staff certainly believe it, and in the case of Weber, he's been exactly what the Preds have needed, no matter the situation.
"He's an excellent skater and his competitiveness takes him a long way on the ice," Laviolette said of Weber. "He's more than talented enough to contribute, and I think he's had a really strong year, not only in the role he's playing now, but even when more was asked of him, he's been able to give that. He's done a terrific job."
Weber certainly feels he's shown what he's capable of in recent weeks, and in the subsequent weeks to come, he'll be relied upon to do more of the same.
And back to the crazy part, it now looks as though he and Josi, along with the rest of their teammates, will have the chance to compete for something so many dream about, but so few ever attain.
"It's good to see that when you play those top teams, we know we can play with them and beat them," Weber said. "I think it's great for our group to see and to know that if we do play the way we need to play, anything is possible."