Devils will test Preds' upgraded power play prowess

Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 1:51am

Potent? No, but it’s getting better. Important? Absolutely.

That about sums it up for the Nashville Predators’ power play nearly one-quarter of the way into this season.

Just check the record. Nashville is 10-8-1 overall following Tuesday’s 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks, but 8-0-0 when it has scored at least once on the power play and 2-8-1 when it has failed to do so.

“Even though our power play is still probably 30th in the league, we know how important it is for our team because usually it results in a win,” Steve Sullivan said.

Actually, the Predators’ power play improved two spots to 28th in the league after it converted twice in four attempts against the Sharks. Its success rate (13.7 percent), though, was barely more than half that of the league leader, Philadelphia (27.0) and two points below last season’s average, which was 25th-best in the NHL

Nashville has scored with a man-advantage in eight of its last 12 games, after having done so once on 27 tries in the first eight games.

It will look to continue that trend Thursday against New Jersey (7 p.m., Sommet Center), which has the league’s seventh-best penalty killing unit.

“If our power play is starting to heat up and it gets us some goals, that gives us a really good advantage,” coach Barry Trotz said. “…We have been playing disciplined and, if you do that and your power play starts to contribute on a regular basis, that’s a tremendous advantage for us.”

That discipline is evident in the fact that the Predators have had more power plays than their opponent in each of the last four games. They have been shorthanded a total of just eight times in that stretch and have not allowed a goal in any of those situations.

Good thing too because — statistically speaking, at least — they need every advantage possible.

With 27 five-on-five goals through 19 games (as of Wednesday morning) Nashville was tied Toronto for fewest in the league. Similarly its six goals in five-on-four situations ranked at the bottom.

Where the Predators have suddenly excelled is with the two-man advantage. Its three five-on-three goals, including one by Sullivan each of the last two games, were one off the league lead.

“I think they’re starting to feel comfortable with what they can do,” Trotz said. “There’s a lot more movement, especially on the five-on-three we’ve made good decisions.”

They’ve also found there is no shortage of players on their roster who can capitalize when the other team is shorthanded.

Thus far, six different players have scored at least one power-play goal, and three (Sullivan, Joel Ward and Shea Weber) have more than one. In addition to the top line of Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont and Sullivan, units centered by David Legwand and Mike Santorelli also have been used on the power play.

“We’ve been using more people on the power play,” Trotz said. “I think we were a little limited last year. This year, we use the Arnott unit, (and) … the other units are sort of sharing time. But if they’re producing more then maybe (Arnott’s) unit isn’t necessarily the first unit going out there.”