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Predators, Canucks pushing tempo with new coaches

by Kevin Woodley

PREDATORS (6-2-2) at CANUCKS (8-3-0)


VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators may not recognize each other when they meet for the first time Sunday night, but they look a lot alike with new coaches.

Under Willie Desjardins, the Canucks are trying to push the tempo, forcing opponents to make mistakes with speed and rolling all four lines to keep players and the pace fresh.

That sounds a lot like what veteran forward Mike Fisher has seen from the Predators under new coach Peter Laviolette.

"We are aggressive, we forecheck and we're relentless on the puck and he really stresses that," said Fisher, who was one of three Predators to skate Sunday morning as he continues to rehab from offseason surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon.

Fisher, who has been skating for five weeks and hopes to add contact drills before returning later this month, likes what he has seen so far from the Predators (6-2-2) since Laviolette replaced Barry Trotz.

"We always want to be a puck-pressure team and hard on teams and that's when teams struggle, when you are forcing them," Fisher said of the style adjustment. "We have the speed and energy and because we can roll four lines too, we can maybe do that a little more than some teams that aren't as good on the back two lines as we are."

It's a departure from the more defensive mindset the Predators and Canucks stressed while missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

Nashville ranks 20th in the NHL with 2.50 goals per game, but Laviolette plans to keep pushing the tempo even after the aggression cost his Predators a few too many rushes the other way during a 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames on Friday night.

"Looking back we gave up a little too much against the rush, which means we were maybe a little but overaggressive at times in the offensive zone," Laviolette said Sunday, adding it was something they showed on video and talked about before playing Vancouver.

That doesn't mean the Predators want to change how they play, especially since Nashville is generating positive possession numbers.

"It is a recipe for success. We just have to continue to push the pace," Laviolette said.

Fisher pointed to the offseason additions of forwards James Neal, Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy as a big part of the change.

"That's brought us really good depth and we play four lines with the best of teams and our offense is spread out," Fisher said.

It sounds a lot like the Canucks under Desjardins, who has spread the minutes and scoring around during an 8-3-0 start with the NHL's fourth- highest scoring offense at 3.27 goals per game.

Every forward averaged more than 10 minutes a game before Tom Sestito played 6:25 in his season debut against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. The result has been a more balanced attack, with the new top line of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Radim Vrbata leading the way early and the third and fourth lines chipping in with six goals in the past three games.

Sestito even had an assist in his limited debut Saturday, but the recall of Bo Horvat from a conditioning stint in the American Hockey League had many wondering if Sestito might sit against Nashville.

Horvat, the ninth player taken in the 2013 NHL Draft, was sent down after injuring his shoulder in the preseason. The 19-year-old center was pointless in five games with the Utica Comets, but knows it's his faceoffs and two-way game that will keep him in the NHL rather than being sent back to junior hockey.

"I wasn't going down three looking to put up a ton of points," Horvat said. "I was really happy to go down and get my legs back under me and start playing before I stepped into some NHL games. I definitely needed to get my speed and timing back."

Here are the projected lineups:


Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - James Neal

Matt Cullen - Derek Roy - Craig Smith

Gabriel Bourque - Paul Gaustad - Eric Nystrom

Olli Jokinen - Colin Wilson - Taylor Beck

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Victor Bartley - Seth Jones

Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Suspended: Anton Volchenkov

Scratched: Calle Jarnkrok

Injured: Mike Fisher (Achilles tendon)


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Radim Vrbata

Chris Higgins - Nick Bonino - Jannik Hansen

Brad Richardson - Shawn Matthias - Zack Kassian

Tom Sestito - Linden Vey - Derek Dorsett

Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev

Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa

Luca Sbisa - Yannick Weber

Eddie Lack

Ryan Miller

Suspended: Alexandre Burrows

Scratched: Bo Horvat, Ryan Stanton

Status report: Laviolette confirmed Bartley would make his season debut after Volchenkov was suspended Sunday for four games for an illegal check to the head of Calgary forward Michael Ferland in the game Friday. "We'll miss [Volchenkov] for sure, he brings a different element to our team," Laviolette said. "When you are faced with a little adversity it's an opportunity for somebody else and we are comfortable with Victor going in there." … Horvat wasn't sure if he would make his NHL regular-season debut against the Predators, but after skating hard for an hour in the morning it didn't look like it. The same goes for Stanton, a defenseman who is ready to return from an Oct. 17 groin injury but can't find a spot in a lineup that has won four straight. "I can't wait to finally play an NHL game in the regular season." Horvat said. "Hopefully it comes soon." … The Canucks are expected to start Lack in goal after Miller played Saturday, but don't announce that before the game.

Who's hot: Ribeiro has an assist in each of his part two games, eight points in the past eight games, and is tied with linemate Forsberg for the team lead with eight points. … The Canucks' top line was blanked for the first time this season in Vancouver's 3-2 victory at Edmonton on Saturday, but the third and fourth lines continue to contribute offensively. Dorsett has a goal and two assists in his past two games, including a shorthanded game-winner against the Oilers.

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