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Hurricanes 3, Predators 0 @NHLdotcom

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -Cam Ward lost 20 pounds this offseason and still managed to come up big.

A slimmed-down Ward stopped 18 shots during the Carolina Hurricanes' 3-0 preseason victory over the Nashville Predators on Friday night.

Casey Boyer and former Predator Scott Walker each had a goal and an assist, and Ray Whitney also scored for the Hurricanes, who have drawn motivation all preseason from their precipitous fall from Stanley Cup champions to playoff no-shows.

"Everybody's got to hold themselves accountable to come into training camp in good shape," Ward said. "You could tell right from the get-go that guys were excited and awful hungry this season coming into training camp. And it shows."

Carolina overcame a slow start on offense and got things rolling late, scoring twice in the final 4 1/2 minutes to improve to 2-0 in the preseason.

And Ward, the MVP of the Hurricanes' Cup run in 2006, focused on shedding weight and improving his quickness during the five-month offseason. He certainly seemed in midseason form in stopping cold a Nashville offense that entered with eight goals in two games.

"When you lose 20 pounds, I think that you feel better and more confident about yourself in life, and you can carry that into your profession," coach Peter Laviolette said. "Just the quickness and the ability to move easier and just being in better shape plays into that. ... It's early, but it was a real good first step for him."

Dan Ellis - who won the only start of his NHL career when he debuted with Dallas in 2004 - stopped nine shots in two periods for Nashville before giving way to Pekka Rinne. He had 12 saves and was pulled with 1:42 remaining for an extra attacker.

Carolina managed just four first-period shots for the second time in two games this preseason before once again getting the offense rolling later. The Hurricanes shot it 27 times and scored all their goals during the final two periods and overtime of their 4-3 win over Washington last Sunday.

"They capitalized on their chances and they did a good job of shutting us down," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.

This time, Boyer put the Hurricanes up 1-0 by scoring his first goal of the preseason about 5 minutes into the second. The former St. Cloud State defenseman and third-round draft pick uncorked a slap shot from just inside the blue line that beat Ellis to the glove side - even if he couldn't immediately tell because he was so far out.

"I saw it go in (toward the net), and the light go on and all the boys turned around, arms up, so I was like, 'All right, it fell for me,"' Boyer said.

Whitney made it a two-goal game with about 4 1/2 minutes remaining, when his snap shot from the left circle got past a screened Rinne. Walker took a pass from Matt Cullen and tapped home an empty-netter to seal with just over a minute to play.

More than half the players from Nashville's top three lines sat out, including captain Jason Arnott and right wing J.P. Dumont, while the Hurricanes held out All-Stars Justin Williams and Eric Staal, plus Erik Cole, who scored the game-winner in their preseason opener five days earlier against Washington.

The opening faceoff was delayed 11 minutes because the lights failed to turn on after they were dimmed for player introductions.

The teams will play the second half of their home-and-home set Saturday in Nashville.

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