This was a busy week for the Nashville Predators, made more difficult by the absence of Ryan Suter on the blueline. The burden of assuming Suter's defensive responsibilities fell on many players' shoulders, but one guy who stood out from the pack was defenseman Kevin Klein, who has taken on tough matchups while providing a safety net for rookie Roman Josi.
A shutdown defenseman's work is usually a thankless job - much like referees, the old saying applies that the less seen of them, the better. Klein's appearances on the highlight reel, more often than not, end up in frustration as an opponent scores on the Predators, and he doesn't get to balance those out with the offensive chances or power play ice time that others do. In olden times, these guys were called "stay at home" defensemen, but in the modern NHL those kinds of immobile blueliners have mostly gone the way of the Dodo. When it comes to pure skating ability, Klein is as athletic as they come, it's just that the focus of his game is on the gritty, unglamorous side of things.
This week, however, Klein chipped in with an assist in the 3-0 win at Columbus Thursday night, after two strong efforts against the Islanders and Rangers on Monday and Tuesday. Through those three games, he averaged 21:35 of ice time, while not being out there for for a single goal against.
Then, against Chicago Saturday night, he earned First Star of the Game honors not only due to strong work in his own end of the ice and a season-high 4 shots on goal, but for this laugher of a goal on the Blackhawks' Corey Crawford. Later, he followed that up with a fine point shot which Patric Hornqvist tipped home for the Preds' fifth goal of the night. All in all, the week brought a little bit of everything for Kleiner - solid defensive play (notice the lack of penalties), a couple assists, and a goal which only the hockey gods could bestow upon a player they deem worthy. Who am I to argue with the hockey gods?