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Playoff hopes dying as Nashville Predators struggle to score

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Nashville Predators' scoring problems have put their streak of four consecutive playoff appearances at risk.

The Predators are last in the NHL in goals scored with 111 through 46 games. They have scored three or fewer goals in 25 of their past 29 games with six one-goal losses in that stretch, while the power play ranks 29th out of 30 teams.

The team ended their all-star break a day early Monday and left for Vancouver hoping to find some chemistry away from home.

"There's nothing magical about it," coach Barry Trotz said. "It's hard work and details and guys communicating and all those things."

Defenceman Shea Weber, the Predators' lone all-star, and goaltender Pekka Rinne, who played in the YoungStars game, flew straight from Montreal to Vancouver to meet the team rather than risk weather delays before Wednesday night's game. But Trotz planned individual meetings during the flight to help set goals for the final 36 games.

The need to score more goals is at the top and has Trotz preaching a return to scoring basics. He's also moving Steve Sullivan, a forward who's only been back five games after missing nearly two years with a back injury, to a line with captain Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont.

"We're trying a lot of different things ... We've got to find the solution to score more goals," Sullivan said.

Arnott said they've tried everything else.

"So he's trying something new now, and hopefully it works. It's going to be up to us as a whole to get out of this," Arnott said.

Scoring wasn't expected to be this much of a problem this season even as the Predators lost forward Alexander Radulov, who scored 26 goals last season, when he chose to stay home and play in Russia.

Nashville's defencemen have scored 29 goals this season, one off what they scored all of last season with Weber leading the group and all defencemen in the NHL with 14. He also leads the Predators in power-play goals with six.

The struggles with scoring is why the Predators went into the break 3-7 over the last 10 games. They welcomed the break, with Trotz comparing it to needing a vacation after a tough stretch at the office.

Arnott said they're just not happy with how they were playing going into the break.

"But we talked about it a lot, and now it's just going out and doing it. We hashed out a lot of our issues. Now it's just time to cut down our mistakes and capitalize on our opportunities and just keep working as a team. That's all we can ask," Arnott said.

The Predators rank sixth in the NHL in most points since 2005-06 with 161 and had been third for most home points in that time. After their three-game swing through western Canada, the Predators will play 11 of 15 at home starting Feb. 3 with four of their first six in March on home ice.

Sullivan said the current road trip can help the team bond.

"We're really going to have to rely on each other to get out of this funk," he said.

The on-ice struggles haven't been seen yet in the stands. Paid attendance sits at 13,744 through 22 games, up from 12,975 at the same point last season, putting Nashville easily within reach of the 14,000-average needed for revenue-sharing.

Trotz recalled the Predators were counted out of the playoff chase at about this time last year. Nashville got hot and grabbed the West's No. 8 seed before losing a fourth straight first-round playoff series. Trotz said hopefully that's the plan again.

"Every game is going to have to be played like a playoff game. If we don't, then we're not going to be successful. It's that simple. But this group cares and is willing to go forward and hopefully we can get it done," Trotz said.


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