As a rookie with the Nashville Predators in 2009-10, Cody Franson saw up close what an all-star first pairing looks like. And just as importantly, what it sounds like.

After nearly every shift, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter sat down on the bench and started talking. They talked about what they saw on the last shift — how their retrievals worked, how the opponent attacked on the rush, how aggressive the forwards were. It was an endless constructive conversation, briefly interrupted by a shift, and then right back on.

“They’d talk so much through the course of the game to make it easier on themselves,” Franson said. “And then you’d watch them go out the next shift and execute what they were talking about. It makes you understand just how important a pairing actually is.”

So while Franson is a 30-year-old veteran in his ninth NHL season, he’s all ears when Duncan Keith starts talking. And Keith is almost always talking.

“He basically lays out a game plan for you,” Franson said. “There are certain ways he likes to retrieve pucks and certain ways he likes his partner to read off of him that’s a little different than normal. But it’s great. As long as you’re open-eared and listen to what he wants you to do, things tend to go pretty smoothly. Being able to play with Dunc and that level of smarts is a lot of fun.”

It certainly beats not playing at all, which is how Franson spent most of October. He was a healthy scratch for nine of the first 11 games of the season. Franson did his best to temper his frustration, and he repeatedly said that the Blackhawks coaching staff did a good job of staying in his ear, explaining the situation and preaching patience.