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After loss in opener, Predators vow to rediscover their identity against Canucks

Coach of the year nominee Barry Trotz doesn’t like to dwell on a bad game.

But he broke a personal rule Friday and dissected with his players the Nashville Predators’lacklustre effort in Thursday’s series-opening 1-0 playoff loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

“We talked about what we did yesterday a little bit because ... what we need to do is get back to our identity and last night you didn’t see that,”Trotz said.

“As a group I think we take that personally.”

The budget-conscious Predators are a hard-working club that doesn’t blow an opponent out of the building. They usually play a tough, grinding game, waiting to counter-punch after a mistake.

That was missing Thursday and Trotz and his charges said they are determined to erase the bad start when the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal resumes here Saturday.

“We talked about that game, we went through it and now we’re parking it,”Trotz said.

Defenceman Shea Weber, a Norris trophy candidate, said there were meetings before a short practice.

“I think everyone understands what happened and what we did, so it just comes down to us being a lot better.”he said.

“Enough talk is enough talk. You’ve just got to go out there and do it. We’ve got to be a whole different team.”

Facing Nashville in Thursday’s opener was a sea change for Vancouver after the emotional cauldron of a first-round seven-game series against the rival Chicago Blackhawks.

Against the Predators it was more like playing a team completing the last of a three-games-in-four-nights road trip during the NHL schedule’s January dog days.

While Vancouver had to play only one day after eliminating the Blackhawks, Nashville had three days to savour the first series win in their 13-year history.

There were more questions about whether the Canucks would get a good start.

Instead, Vancouver outworked the visitors for the first 40 minutes, outshooting them 23-6 for the first half of the game.

Sometimes teams find themselves in a funk like that, said Nashville centre Mike Fisher, pointing to Canuck losses of 7-2 and 5-0 against Chicago in Games 4 and 5.

“It happens,”he said.“It’s about adjusting, coming back that next game with the pedal down and learning from it.

“We’ll see what we’re made of (Saturday).”

Canuck players said they’ll have to be ready for Nashville’s best effort.

“We expect them to bring their A game,”said fourth-line crash-and-banger Tanner Glass.

“That wasn’t it last night. They have a really good team over there that plays tight. We expect a lot better.”

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said his team wasn’t flat as some expected against Nashville, but the Predators can’t be taken lightly.

“Any team that's got a Vezina player there (best goalie nominee Pekka Rinne) and Norris trophy-nominated player and the balance they have, they are a much better team than people are giving them credit for,”Vigneault said.

Trotz was particularly critical of his forwards’performance Thursday night and diminutive left-winger Steve Sullivan said that had better change.

“It’ll be a quick series if we don’t,”Sullivan said through a fat lip.

“We know what we have to do. It’s not our game plan, it’s the effort so we’ve got to make sure we have a better one.

“A lot of nights the guys that are playing the best can kind of carry the team along a little bit until everyone gets their legs. Last night we just had too many passengers and we just couldn’t get it going.”

One area where the Predators will seek improvement is faceoffs as the Canucks seemed to own the puck for two periods, leaving Rinne to hold the Nashville fort.

“It’s hard when you’re chasing all the time and that’s what we were doing the first half of the game,”said Fisher.

His club was schooled 22-3 in the circle in the first period alone.

“It’s not just the centremen, it’s the wingers helping out and the defence helping out on draws too,”said Weber.

Defenceman Shane O’Brien, a Canuck until just before the season started, said the Predators just sat back and watched his old team.

“They started getting confidence,”O’Brien said.“I think they could smell a little bit of blood over there and they just kept coming at us for two periods.

“We can’t respect them too much. We’ve just got to go at them. We deserve to be here and we’ve got to start playing like it.”

NOTES: Trotz joined Vigneault and Dan Bylsma of Pittsburgh as coach of the year nominees ... Ryan Kesler had a game-high 11 wins in 19 draws while third-line centre Maxim Lapierre was a perfect 6-0.


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