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Tuesday afternoon notes: Confident Craig Smith addresses the Nashville media

Following up on this morning's contract announcement, the Nashville Predators held a conference call for Craig Smith with the Nashville media, and it certainly sounds like the Preds have a prospect here who is brimming with confidence coming off a big season of college hockey and a breakout performance at the World Championships for Team USA. 

Could we see a young player like Smith, Gabriel Bourque, or Taylor Beck make the jump up to the NHL at the start of the season? Given the history of guys like Joel Ward, Dan Ellis, and most recently Anders Lindback who have jumped the queue based on a strong training camp, it's entirely possible.

After the jump, we have two accounts of that media call along with your assortment of afternoon hockey news...

Nashville Predators News

The 303:30 — The Craig Smith press conference | Section 303
Craig Smith was part of a teleconference with the Nashville media, and Jeremy recorded the proceedings for you.

Smashville 24/7: Smith comfortable with decision to turn pro
And if you can't listen to the 303:30 right now, Ryan wrote up the quotes from that presser.

Some solutions to NHL Network’s boring summer programming… | Section 303
Solid suggestions here for a network that's pretty much an afterthought during this time of year (but doesn't have to be).

The Fourth Period - Clock is ticking on Weber
Ryan walks through possible reasons why the Shea Weber negotiations have dragged on.

Around the NHL

Who's still out there? Top remaining free agents - NHL.com
Scan the group of defensemen here, and wonder if one of these might plug a hole if Francis Bouillon is unable to go at the start of the year. Scott Hannan and Brent Sopel jump out as veteran stay-at-home types, while Bryan McCabe and Chris Campoli could lend an experienced hand on the power play.

Looking ahead to 2011-12: Ranking the NHL’s top right wingers - Puck Daddy
Martin Erat pops up at #24, but this appraisal makes us sad: "He scores in the 25-goal range for the Preds, which is like potting 40 anywhere else." You know how many times Marty has scored 25 goals? 0. His career best is 23, set 3 years ago.

Posters on a Fence - Battle of California
There are two Great 8's in California who fans are waiting on...

Kris Draper Retires - Winging It In Motown
A reflection on the last of the Grind Line.

Pens sign forward Jason Williams to two-way deal - PensBurgh
When healthy, Williams can be a productive sniper, but all sorts of injuries have sidelined him in recent years.

Coming Down the Pipe!: Broncos Hire Andy Murray
Western Michigan, which is among those teams scrambling for position as the CCHA prepares to lose schools like Michigan and Michigan State, lands a big name for its head coaching job in former NHL head coach Andy Murray.

Bourne Blog: Three reasons to avoid killing penalties - Puck Daddy
I'd throw in another reason here - there are lots of guys who would kill for your job, so the prospects of making a big payday as an NHL penalty killer are pretty slim.

Meet the NHL's shootout kings - NHL.com
Pekka Rinne ranks high on the list of goalies here.

How to clean your hockey equipment | Hockey Gear HQ - news, reviews & deals
Besides the need to fight The Stench, that foul, uniquely characteristic odor which emanates from nasty hockey gear, there are also safety issues to consider.