Weber's shot leaves goalies tap-dancing

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

It might be Dan Ellis' job to get in front of pucks.

When it comes to facing Nashville Predators defenceman Shea Weber's shot, though, the netminder admits he's not against getting out of the way.

"I hate practising against him. Every single shot hurts," said Ellis before the Preds hosted the Calgary Flames last night. "He gets it high and hard and that's never a goalie's favourite shot for practice."

That's where the ducking and dodging comes in. Ellis has had more than just memories of the heat coming off Weber's stick.

"All the time. Bumps and bruises. That's just part of the game," he said with a laugh. "But you try to get out of the way, or hit it with your stick or something like that."

Drawing comparisons to fellow 2003 draftee Dion Phaneuf for his heavy shot and equally heavy hits, Weber's name is being mentioned in that company even more often because of his hot start this season.

Leading the Predators in scoring with three goals and seven points after a frustrating and injury plagued third season, Weber is picking up where he left off in his breakout campaign of 2006-07 when he potted 17 goals and 40 points as a sophomore.

He was hoping to continue that sort of production last year, but a knee injury suffered as he threw a hit on Colorado Avalanche winger Milan Hejduk on his second shift of the season opener sidelined him for almost two months.

"I think that's part of the reason it was such a tough year," said Weber. "Not only to get an injury, but on your second shift after a long summer of training, getting ready for the year. It was definitely discouraging."

So was the ankle injury that took away a few more weeks of his season 15 games after his return.

"That's probably the reason he's so determined this year," said fellow blueliner Dan Hamhuis. "Right from the day he got here in training camp, he's had a real determined attitude. I think he was a little bit disappointed with last season, being injured a lot.

"He's got really high expectations for himself and he works extremely hard. To just be sitting on the sidelines doing nothing, it was tough on him."

Taken 49th overall by the Preds in the second round of the 2003 draft hosted by Nashville, Weber is looking like a steal.

His offensive production so far in his short career isn't quite as glowing as Phaneuf's, but Weber's defensive maturity might have come more quickly.

Ellis sure has confidence in the 6-ft.-3, 213-pounder from Sicamous, B.C. Weber doesn't get beat very often.

"He's very reliable," said Ellis.

"He's a very good communicator. He tells you where the puck is, tells you where our men are. He does a great job clearing rebounds, blocking shots."

So while Phaneuf's coaches try to get sharpen his defensive skills to the standard he's set at the other end of the rink, Weber is on the brink of getting his own offence to match his defence.

"This year, it seems he's really dialled everything in -- offensively, defensively, his shot is really working for him," said Ellis.

"I would bet he's got one of the harder shots in the entire league."


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