In 45 games this season, Shea Weber has 11 goals and 30 points for the Predators. (USA Today Images)
The Flyers caught a break last time they faced the Nashville Predators. All-Star defenseman and Preds captain Shea Weber wasn’t in the lineup back on Nov. 30.
They won’t be so lucky this time around.
When the Flyers host the Predators on Thursday night, they’ll face a team coming off a big win against the Calgary Flames -- and a healthy Weber.
“He’s a great player,” Matt Read said. “Great defensively, great offensively. Last game we played against them, he was a big absence for them. But we’ve got to take advantage of home ice and play a better game than we did in Nashville and come away with two points again.”
The Flyers beat the Predators when they met at the Bridgestone Arena, 3-2, but it took a shootout for them to do so. They had to work hard to force overtime and the eventual shootout. Even then, they had to lean on Steve Mason to get the job done.
It won’t be any easier this time around.
“Obviously, when you add a piece like Shea Weber, he’s a shut-down defenseman who plays a lot of hard minutes for them,” Brayden Schenn said. “He has 10 or 11 goals and obviously has a big shot from the point. He’s a key piece to their team. To add that to their lineup will be huge for them. It’s not gonna be an easy game [Thursday].”
Weber is most dangerous on the power play, when he has even more time and space to get a shot off. The Flyers have discussed it and planned for it and are aware that discipline will be key.
“They definitely have a good power play, especially with him out there with his shot,” Craig Berube said. “So you've got to take that shot away and you've got to stay out of the box as best we can. We played them up there. They have [Seth] Jones, a good defenseman. [Roman] Josi, a good defenseman. They've got a good defense. But the best way to defend the power play is to stay out of the penalty box.”
Despite their impressive defensive roster, the Predators have struggled this season. They’re in sixth place in the Western Conference’s Central Division and have lost six of their last 10 games.
That said, the Flyers have been tripped up by struggling teams before. They had a tough time Tuesday against the Sabres -- the worst offensive team in the NHL.
“[The Predators] are a good, hard-working team,” Schenn said. “You’ve got to be ready right off the get-go tomorrow and they’re well-coached. They play defensively sound hockey. It’s gonna be another hard-fought game tomorrow.”