At the morning skate before the Predators played Ottawa on Feb. 9, a reporter asked Senators Coach Paul MacLean about the scoring balance up and down Nashville's lineup.

He did not hesitate.

"Martin Erat is an exceptional player for them," MacLean said. "He doesn't get an awful lot of credit, but every line he plays on seems to be the best line on their team."

The words weren't revelatory. They came from experience. As an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings for six years, MacLean had seen Erat's skating ability, nifty hands, passing vision and hockey sense up close six times per season in the Central Division.

"I consider whatever line Martin Erat is on a top line in the league," MacLean said.