NHL.com: Preds look for more scoring from top line

Wednesday, 05.04.2011 / 6:19 PM / Nashville Predators Playoffs Coverage
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When the Nashville Predators won their first series in franchise history in the first round, they did it on the backs of their first line. Sergei Kostitsyn, Mike Fisher and Patric Hornqvist combined for 13 points in those six games.

With the Predators trailing Vancouver 2-1 in their Western Conference Semifinals series, that trio has put up exactly zero points in the three games.

"Right now, they are a little disjointed," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "They're not supporting the puck very well as a group. It all starts -- I always say one end of the ice is always connected to the other end. If you're not breaking out really well in terms of your breakouts and managing the neutral zone, which is the next zone you encounter, what you decided in the neutral zone will dictate whether you're going to be in an offensive mode or forechecking mode or retrieval mode on a turnover.

"They haven't been really solid and I'd say more so in the neutral zone. Their breakouts have been OK, but they're neutral zone decisions haven't been very good and their support for each is not where it needs to be. They're spread out too far. And when you have no time and space you can't be spread out because it takes too long to support."

Said Hornqvist: "I think me, Fish and Sergei, we all have to take (the puck) to the net. We're not playing very good right now, but we know what we're going to do tomorrow and hopefully we're going to get some chances."

While the lack of production surely has to do with the line's play, it also has something to do with outside factors. Anaheim is not the defensive equal of Vancouver. In the first round, Nashville's top line passed the puck fluidly, finding back-door plays into wide open nets.

"I think we have a little better speed out there," Hornqvist said of how the line played in the first round. "We were getting those second chances I'm talking about. And when you're skating, you don't think that much. Maybe it's getting a little in our head, too. We know we have to score and we try a little too hard. Maybe try those backdoor passes instead of just taking it to the net."

Not only has the backdoor not been open, as Trotz mentioned, the front door hasn't either.

"I think this series, like I say, we just have to do better job on forecheck," said Kostitsyn, Nashville's leading scorer with 23 goals in the regular season but who did not have a shot in Game 3 and only has four in the series. "Most of the time we spend in our zone. We have no puck so we have to chase the whole time. We just have to do a better job on forecheck."

Part of that comes from who the line is matched up against. Trotz mentioned that those three are often matched up against Vancouver's shutdown pair of Kevin Bieksa and ex-Pred Dan Hamhuis. They also are seeing their share of Ryan Kesler's line and Kesler is a finalist for the Selke Award, given to the League's top defensive forward.

Kesler was asked what Vancouver has done well in defending Nashville's top line.

"I think just playing them hard, keeping them to the outside and limited their second and third opportunities," he said. "They're obviously a bunch of skilled guys and if you keep them to the outside, they don't do much."

Hornqvist pretty much agreed with that assessment. He said his group needs to be hungrier and more determined and that they had mostly been getting boxed out by Vancouver's defensemen and limited to one shot.

"Last game we just have the first shot and the (defense) just box us out and they did a great job," said Hornqvist, who reached the 30-goal mark last season. "We work a little harder and go a little harder to the net."

Hornqvist, whose preferred method of scoring is via the scrum in front of the net, also said they need to take the puck to the net and "throw some bodies around."

Whatever the various solutions may be, one thing is not in dispute.

"Like I say, we have to play better," Kostitsyn said. "Our line has to play better."

Author: John Manasso | NHL.com Correspondent

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1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67


S. Weber 79 23 33 -2 56
P. Hornqvist 76 22 31 1 53
C. Smith 79 24 28 16 52
M. Fisher 75 20 29 -4 49
R. Josi 72 13 27 -2 40
M. Cullen 77 10 29 4 39
C. Wilson 81 11 22 -1 33
N. Spaling 71 13 19 2 32
R. Ellis 80 6 21 9 27
G. Bourque 74 9 17 -5 26
C. Hutton 20 11 4 .910 2.62
D. Dubnyk 11 18 3 .891 3.43


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