Preds can match Sedins miss for miss

Nashville Predators' Martin Erat is hit off the puck by Vancouver Canucks' Ryan Kesler and Kevin...

Nashville Predators' Martin Erat is hit off the puck by Vancouver Canucks' Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa. (REUTERS/Andy Clark)

 Randy Sportak, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:09 AM ET

NASHVILLE - The slumping Sedins aren't the only top-line players trying to break out.

There are a slew of Nashville Predators whose offensive touch appears as extinct as the sabre-toothed tiger which adorns their logo.

While the focus has been on the lack of scoring from Vancouver's big guns, the Preds are in an even worse spot as their playoff series heads to Game 4 Thursday in Music City, U.S.A.

Through the first three games, Martin Erat, the team's top point-producer during the season, has managed just two assists.

Sergei Kostitsyn, the top scorer during the season, has been blanked, as has Patric Hornqvist, the only other Predator to hit the 20-goal mark.

At least the Canucks can turn to the likes of proven lamplighters Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and even three-time 20-goal scorer Chris Higgins.

"We're not playing very good right now, but we know what we're going to do (Thursday)," said Hornqvist, who has gone five games without a goal. "Hopefully we can get some chances and some goals."

If he and the rest of the key members of Nashville's scoring-by-committee approach don't turn their game around, it won't bode well for a team trailing a best-of-seven series two games to one.

Hornqvist and Kostitsyn skate on a line with Mike Fisher, another member of the no-goal club so far this series.

Some credit for that lack of production must go to Kesler and his linemates.

However, Nashville's most valuable trio hasn't created enough opportunities.

"Right now, they're a little disjointed," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "They're not supporting the puck as well as a group. I always say one end of the ice is connected to another. If you're not breaking out real well, managing the neutral zone ... will dictate whether you'll be in an offensive mode, a forechecking mode or retrieval mode.

"They haven't been really solid in the neutral zone ... and their support for each other is not where it needs to be. They're spread out too far."

Nashville's forwards look as if they need a map to figure out where Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo can be found.

"I have to get the puck deep and create some scrums around the net," Hornqvist said. "Last game I didn't do it. We have to go back to the basics -- get it deep and then take it to the net every time we get a chance to throw some bodies around there.

"Last game we had the first shot and then the defence boxed us out. They did a great job. We have to work a little harder and try to go a little harder to the net."

Game 4 isn't a do-or-die for the Predators, but it's darn close.

The Canucks aren't firing on all cylinders but appear to be elevating their game.

Heading to Vancouver and facing elimination would be a tough position, and the Preds know it.

"The next game is huge for us," Joel Ward said. "We don't want to be worried, but we don't want to be down 3-1."

As for the Canucks, most everybody is contributing to expectations. Well, save for maybe the Sedins, who continue to struggle in the offensive zone.

"They had some real good opportunities to put it behind a great goaltender (Tuesday) night, and they weren't able to," coach Alain Vigneault said. "But I'm confident with the effort they showed, that second and third commitment to getting to those loose pucks and protecting it, they'll be rewarded soon."
randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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