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Goal-starved Vancouver Canucks looking to end slide against Nashville

VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Canucks practised at the Pacific Coliseum on Wednesday because GM Place showcased motivational speakers talking about The Power Within.

While the Canucks were displaced by businesswoman Martha Stewart, tennis great Andre Agassi and musician Quincy Jones, it's evident they need to find power from somewhere.

They're on a four-game losing skid - with only two goals in their last two games - and face the Nashville Predators here Thursday, one of eight NHL teams above them in a Western Conference playoff position.

"It's definitely offence," winger Markus Naslund said when asked for a diagnosis of the Canucks' struggles. "It's offence five on five, it's shots, a better power power play."

The cure is playing with desperation and hard work.

"We need that, no doubt about it, but there's something called working smart and being sharp at the right times," Naslund said. "It's also (being) a looser group. You have to go out there and try things and be creative.

"Sometimes it's a bit of a test when you know how big the games are but you also need to generate offence and to do that I think you have to enjoy it ... not be worried about the outcome but just enjoy the process."

Two weeks ago, Vancouver was in the thick of the conference playoff race after a season-high fourth straight win.

Now they face a Predators club with four 20-goal scorers and which fired 50 shots on goalie Roberto Luongo the last time they met.

"I'm expecting a bit of the same," Luongo said of Nashville. "You've just got to make sure you don't commit too early (to the shooters) because they like to use the back door."

Vancouver will face Nashville without defenceman Mattias Ohlund who did not practice because of a swollen knee. Coach Alain Vigneault said Luc Bourdon has been called up from AHL Manitoba.

Of the Canucks' 16 remaining games, 10 are against teams currently above them in the standings.

"We've got to win every game," Luongo said. "That's the way we approach it."

The losing streak began against Colorado.

After posting a perfect 23-0-0 record when leading after 40 minutes, the Canucks blew a pair of third-period advantages last week.

Against the Avalanche on Feb. 27, Joe Sakic tied the game with 14.7 seconds left. Vancouver lost 3-2 in a shootout.

Two nights later, a two-goal lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets evaporated when Andrew Murray and Rick Nash tallied in a 70-second span. The Jackets won in overtime.

Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago was one of the Canucks' worst performances of the season. They managed only 10 shots on goal and were out-hit 15-2 in the first period by a Chicago club missing eight regulars.

The top line of twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Markus Naslund was broken up but nothing worked. Only Henrik Sedin has points - two assists - in the last six games.

The Canucks played better Tuesday night in Colorado but lost 2-1 on a third-period power-play goal.

Naslund and the twins were reunited at Wednesday's practice and Daniel Sedin expects the scoring touch to return.

"If we have the same game as we did in Colorado, things are going to happen," said the club leader with 26 goals. "We had a lot of great chances but we didn't put them in.

"You're going to go through stretches like this. If it happens in November, nobody's probably going to notice but right now every game is so big so it's a different thing."

Ryan Shannon, who scored the only goal Tuesday against the Avs, said the games have become tighter checking but the goals will come.

"Goals seem to come in waves so once you break the seal they come easy. You have to work your way through it."

More offence appeared to be on the way as centre Brendan Morrison practised with the team for the first time since Dec. 14 wrist surgery. Morrison said he'll need more contact drills to determine when he can return.


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