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Predators have one big problem to solve

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Some NHL teams are closer to being perfect than others, but no group of players is without flaw. The Nashville Predators are off to a great start. They’re tied for the best record in the NHL at 13-5-1, but the Preds have a huge issue they’re going to have to address sooner or later.

When it comes to goals scored, they’re currently ninth in the NHL with 62. When it comes to goals against, the Predators (44 goals allowed) only trail Winnipeg by one for top spot. So, what’s the glaring weakness? It’s the power play, which currently ranks dead-last in the NHL at 10.8 percent. No other team is below 12.7 percent this season. Yikes!

The Predators are heading into this weekend’s game against the Los Angeles Kings on a three-game losing skid. They’ve dropped one-goal decisions to Anaheim (shootout), San Jose and Arizona. During that stretch, they’ve gone 0-for-15 on the man-advantage. You think a power-play goal here or there would have made a difference in three one-goal games? Definitely.

A perfect example of that came on Monday night in Anaheim. The Preds went 0-for-7 on the power play in that one, including a 4-on-3 man-advantage in overtime. Sometimes scheme is the issue, but other times it’s just about the opponent’s aggressive penalty kill, or their goalie. In overtime, it was all about Ducks goalie John Gibson, who stoned Ryan Johansen right in front of the net.

As TSN’s Travis Yost pointed out earlier this week, one of the major issues might be how much ice time their defensemen are getting on the man-advantage. Many teams have opted to use four forwards on the power play this season, but the Preds aren’t typically one of them. Because they’re loaded with defensemen like P.K. Subban (now injured), Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis, they feel like those players are the best options in that kind of scenario. Now that Subban’s been placed on injured reserve, they could decide to hand more ice time to their forwards.

Of the eight power-play goals they’ve scored this season, three have come off the stick of Filip Forsberg. No other player has more than one. And just one of the eight goals has been scored by a defenseman, and that’s Josi.

“I thought we started to get some looks in the overtime,” head coach Peter Laviolette said after Monday’s game against Anaheim, per The Tennessean. “We could’ve won the game a bunch of times on the power play and it just didn’t go for us, so that’s where we’re at right now with it. It’s gotta be better.”

The good news for Nashville, is that they’re going to be home for the majority of the remaining days in November and early December, which means they’ll have ample practice time to work on this significant issue. Eight of the Predators’ next nine games will be at Bridgestone Arena. The only road game they’ll play between now and Dec. 3 will be in St. Louis.

Imagine how dangerous the Preds will be if they get their power play sorted out? That’s a scary thought.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Sutter says Kings power play is “awesome”

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Say what you want the Kings’ new head coach, but one thing that Darryl Sutter has certainly been is successful. The Kings are unbeaten in regulation since the Sutter took over five games ago; and they’re 4-0-2 overall in their last six games as they continue to work towards a playoff spot. Despite the victories lately, the problem that the followed the team continues to hinder the club: scoring.

Sutter would like to tell you that those stats don’t matter. Who cares if they have the 25th ranked power play in the league? Who cares if they’re the worst scoring team in entire NHL (by a large margin)? Despite the persistent troubles with the man-advantage, Sutter likes what he sees from his new team.

“Our power play is awesome, other than the 5-on-3, in the two games we just played,” Sutter said after Saturday’s morning skate. “…I know, if I’m watching upstairs or I’m covering, I’m saying, `Oh, the power play,’ because it’s 14 percent or whatever, but you have to give them — especially the young players on the power play — you have to give them the ability to use their ability.”

Just to review, the Kings “awesome” power play has only scored twice in their last 42 opportunities. The 5-on-3 opportunity Sutter spoke about was nearly a full two minute, two-man advantage during the Kings 1-0 loss in Winnipeg. Having a strong power play is important for any team, but it’s even more important for a team that is struggling to score goals at even strength.

Perhaps that’s why the team practiced on their power play the day after a redeye flight from Manitoba (and back-to-back games).

Los Angeles will get to show what they learned tonight against the Canucks in their final game of 2011. At this point, fans at Staples Center may want a power play that is a little less awesome, and settle for one that is a little more productive.

Note to Chicago power play: The season started a month ago

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Just imagine if the Blackhawks power play knew how to find the net. As of today, they’re sitting on top of the Western Conference standings due in large part to the best offense in the West. They’re keeping the puck out of their own net and their penalty kill is among the best in the league. Yet still, the weak power play keeps people wondering: how good can this team be?

The numbers on the power play have been ugly. The Hawks have only scored four power play goals after a month (in 45 chances). It’s shocking considering names like Hossa, Kane, Toews, Sharp, and Keith spend time on the man-advantage. That doesn’t sound like a power play that would struggle. But the fact remains that they haven’t scored a power play goal since October 22.

The players don’t sound too worried. It’s one thing to be unproductive, but it’s another thing to be ineffective. The Hawks think they’re getting their chances. Patrick Kane said, “We’re doing everything except putting it in the net.” Marian Hossa said they aren’t frustrated because they’re doing a lot of good things. So that’s the good news: they’re moving the puck around and creating prime scoring chances.

Still, it comes back to productivity. A team with the as much talent as the Blackhawks shouldn’t be rocking the 29th ranked power play in the league. Head coach Joel Quenneville understands that it’s nice to create chances, but at some point they need to start putting the puck in the net. “We’re generating but we need production,” Quenneville said. “That’s what we measure and that’s what we’re looking to attain.”

Let’s get this straight: this is a team that thinks they aren’t producing the way they think they should. If they figure it out any time soon, the people at United Center might need another copy of Chelsea Dagger. The other one might be worn out before the season’s over.