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X-Factor: Predators' Wilson scratching the surface

Predators hope benching wakes up forward in time for playoffs

by Robby Stanley / Correspondent

Colin Wilson has been searching for consistency in his seven seasons in the NHL, and the Nashville Predators need him to find it in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The forward had career highs of 20 goals and 42 points in 2014-15, but his production has been a disappointment for the Predators this season.

Wilson scored six goals with 18 assists in 64 games. He was a healthy scratch against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 1, which prompted strong words from Predators general manager David Poile.

"He hasn't been anywhere near as dynamic as he was last year," Poile told The Tennessean. "He had that confidence with the puck, taking the puck to the net, shooting the puck, scoring goals. He's just not the same player."

The healthy scratch seemed to be a wake-up call for Wilson. He knew he had to play better if he wants to remain in the lineup when the postseason begins.

Video: COL@NSH: Neal feeds Wilson to bury puck past Varlamov

"It's always a lesson to be learned when you get sat out," Wilson said. "You never want that to happen and you should learn it before you get scratched, but I think I've been doing well. I thought I had a couple of good games before that scratch. With the playoff stretch coming, I want to step up my game."

Wilson was the key threat for the Predators in their Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015. He scored five goals in six games against the Blackhawks, and was able to go to the front of the net and use his size to put himself in good scoring areas.

The Predators need Wilson to be that player again. They have talented scorers in forwards Filip Forsberg, James Neal and Ryan Johansen, and must get offensive contributions from defensemen Roman Josi and Shea Weber.

However, Wilson will play a big role in determining if the Predators have enough secondary scoring to make a deep run in the playoffs.

"I just want to keep playing that same way," Wilson said. "The closer it gets, your motivation is just win games and do whatever you can to help the team. When it's that easy of a mindset, the rest kind of takes care of itself."

Video: STL@NSH: Wilson's goal puts the Predators up 5-0

When Wilson is on, he plays with speed and uses his size to win battles for the puck and score goals off tips and rebounds. His teammates know Wilson has the ability to produce more consistently, because they've seen him do it before.

"He has a lot of speed and a lot of work ethic, and he has a ton of skill," Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson said. "He can do things with the puck that most guys can't. He's an incredible player."

The Predators head into the playoffs with perhaps their most dangerous roster in franchise history. They need Wilson to add to that and make them even more dangerous. If he can do that, the Predators have a chance to make their first deep postseason run.

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