Legwand looks beyond late-season slump; hopes to regain offensive punch

Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 11:25pm

David Legwand does not necessarily need an offensive breakthrough this season. The Nashville Predators’ veteran center simply does not want to break even.

The first draft pick in franchise history (second overall in 1998) has evolved into the team’s best defensive center, Most nights in recent years he has played against the top offensive lines of opponents with the primary goal to keep them from scoring.

That won’t change when the Predators open the 2010-11 season Saturday against Anaheim (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena) but he is hoping to do a little something different.

“It’s a challenge but you want to go out and beat the other team’s top line, I think,” Legwand said. “You don’t want to just play them even up. If we go out and beat the other team’s top line we’re going to win a lot of games.

“I mean, we’re not going to win a lot of games 6-4 or 7-5. We don’t have the team we had four or five years ago … but we have a group of guys in here who are going to play together – hard – every night and win 2-1, 2-0 games. We’re going to have to win like that all year.”

That’s how they won a lot of games last season, when they returned to the postseason following a one-year absence and played a tense six-game series with the eventual Stanley Cup champion, Chicago.

When Legwand did score, he was a difference-maker. The Predators, in fact, were unbeaten (10-0-1) in the regular season when he had a goal.

The problem was that he stopped scoring. He notched the game-winner on Dec. 31 at Columbus and connected for another two days later at home against Anaheim. After that, he had just one more goal over the remaining three-plus months of the regular season despite the fact that he did not miss any time due to injury.

He played all 82 games but finished with just 11 goals and 38 points, his lowest totals since 2005-06, when he played only slightly more than half the season.

“I don’t think you’re going to read into it too much,” Legwand said. “(Coach Barry Trotz) puts a lot of trust in our line to play against other teams’ top lines and do a good job night-in and night-out. That’s a big thing for us too.

“We do have to score more goals this year and do that together as a line and a group.”

Legwand enjoyed  resurgence in the postseason as he racked up two goals and five assists and, seemingly carried that momentum into training camp.

“He had a disappointing season last year and he knows it,” Trotz said. “He wants to have a better season and he’s put a lot more effort in this summer in terms of preparing himself for this year. I thought he’s been real consistent through training camp.

“He’s such a talented individual that you expect 20 goals every year from him. If he gets 20 in the first 60 games or so, then go for 30. … If he’s in a role where he’s not getting a lot of power play time and he’s playing against the other teams’ top centermen that may be something where you say he wasn’t able to. But he should be in that 20-goal range every year.”

As long as it’s one more than the other teams’ top lines most nights, he’ll take it.