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Preds hope to ignite lacklustre offence

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NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators are in a "funk" and hope a couple of hard practices between games can help them break out.

At least that's the way captain Shea Weber explains the Predators' mood after three straight road losses in California.

The Predators are back home after having gone 3-6-1 in their last 10. They have fallen to 11th in the West, though they are just three points out of fourth. They have 25 games left in the lockout-shortened season, starting with Edmonton at home Friday night.

Coach Barry Trotz put his Predators through a hard practice Wednesday with another session planned for Thursday, the kind of work that's been rare with three to four games a week this season. Weber said that's exactly what they need right now.

"We got to find something," he said. "Definitely we've got to get out of this funk, and I think it's going to come from obviously hard work like we did out there and continue to play confident and try to get pucks to their nets and create second opportunities."

Scoring is a special focus right now because the Predators' offensive struggles have hit a new low.

They rank last in the NHL, averaging 1.96 goals through 23 games. Only two teams have scored less per game over a season since 1950-51. Tampa Bay averaged 1.84 goals a game in 1997-98, while the Chicago Blackhawks averaged 1.90 goals in a 53-game season in 1953-54, according to STATS LLC.

"When you're losing, it's tough to have confidence when it seems like you can't do anything right," Weber said.

Nashville's scoring woes were unexpected for a franchise that ranked eighth last season, averaging 2.83 goals a game. The Predators only lost defenceman Ryan Suter (49 points) and forward Jordin Tootoo (30 points), along with late additions Andrei Kostitsyn (12 points in 19 games) and Alexander Radulov (seven points in nine games).

In search of an offensive spark, the Predators claimed Bobby Butler off waivers from New Jersey on Monday and Zach Boychuk from Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 8, 2013 C2

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