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Preds cashing in on the power play

by John Manasso
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Through two games of the Predators' first-round playoff series with Anaheim, they already have scored three times as many power-play goals than they did in six games of their first-round series with Chicago last year.

Not surprisingly, the Preds are scoring way more goals overall.  Last year through two games, they had scored four goals. This year through two, they have scored seven.

There are a number of reasons why and one notable reason is personnel. Last year, the Preds' leading scorer, Patric Hornqvist, broke his hand just days before the start of the postseason. Hornqvist, who had 10 power-play goals during the 2009-10 regular season, tried to play in Games 1 and 6 but, in his words, "just couldn't hold my stick."

Add a healthy Hornqvist and the acquisitions of Mike Fisher, who has two power-play goals, and Sergei Kostitsyn and that trio has five of the team's nine power-play points thus far.

Hornqvist has been his usual self, going to the front of the net and getting mobbed. After a whistle in Game 2, he took two solid shots in the chops from Toni Lydman's gloved hand.

All in a day's work for Hornqvist.

"That's fine," Hornqvist said. "No problem about that. It's just a tough area to go in front of the net. Sometimes I maybe hit a guy in face in front of the net and sometimes I take some punches, too. As long as they don't come from behind or do something with a stick. You know it's tough to be there and you're prepared to take some hits and some cross-checks. It's just a part of the game to be in front."

Preds defenseman Shea Weber, who, with his trademark cannon of a slap shot, has two power-play goals, said that net presence is integral to the success of the unit.

"I think our forwards are good at what they do," Weber said. "They're willing to go to the front of the net and that's what we need right now. The goalie is going to stop the puck if he sees it, so we need guys to go to the net."

Last year once the Preds began having their troubles on the power play, their troubles began compounding themselves. They finished that series, in which Chicago eliminated them, 1-for-27 with the man advantage, including a five-minute major power play in Game 5 in which they failed to score. That
failure was a major reason why they lost that pivotal game and the series.

This year, Hornqvist said they have been simplifying what they do.

"We try to get it up to the (defense) and then always try to have two guys in front and shoot the puck a little bit more," he said. "That's probably the biggest difference from last year. Last year we passed it around always … maybe we always try to find that back-door and tap in play.

"It's been good for us the last two, three four games here."

For Trotz, it comes down to hard work – the same thing he preached when his power play failed to click last year in the postseason.

"Well, I think they have some freedom in terms of what they're doing," he said. "The power play is about working as hard as the penalty killers and we're doing that and, therefore, with the extra attackers, you open up some seams.

"You got an extra guy near the net or you have more people in front of the net. Just those types of things. A lot of those are some things we worked on all year. It's not necessarily the X and Os, but just the work habits you need against good penalty killing teams."

Nashville also has had another potential power-play goal waved off. David Legwand received a penalty for goaltender interference in Game 2 after he made contact with Anaheim goalie Ray Emery's blocker with his stick while a shot by Weber went in.

Hornqvist said the Preds are confident when it comes to goal-scoring – they were shut out twice through the first four games of their postseason in 2010 – and are hoping to keep that going.

In addition to the successful power-play unit, Hornqvist also is thankful simply to be playing and not injured.

"Yeah, it was tough," he said of his first postseason in 2010. "It was frustrating. I have really good year last year and I was mentally ready for the playoffs and I couldn't play and tried to play Game 6 here and feel OK and they beat us in six games, and the year was over so it was frustrating. You know you can play better than what you did in the playoffs."

So far, the Predators are, especially on the power play.
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