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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Nashville Predators have been thinking about missing the playoffs ever since last season ended, and it's why they made several offseason moves to make sure that doesn't happen again.
They swapped out coaches, going from the only man who's ever stood behind the Predators' bench in Barry Trotz to Peter Laviolette hoping to juice up their offensive production. General manager David Poile also brought in four new forwards trading for James Neal from Pittsburgh and signing Olli Jokinen, Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy to make sure Laviolette has some experienced scorers.
"The last couple years they haven't made the playoffs," Roy said. "That's always a tough pill to swallow when you can't make the postseason," Roy said. "That's what we're here for, to try to work hard in all those areas to help them get better as a team and help us make the playoffs."
Trotz helped the Predators get to two straight Western Conference semifinals before missing the postseason the past two seasons. Laviolette won the Stanley Cup in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes, and he also took the Islanders and Flyers to the playoffs. His teams have finished in the Top 13 in goals scored when he coached a full season.
"Without a doubt, his resume speaks for itself," Nashville captain Shea Weber said of Laviolette.
The Predators, who open the season at home on Oct. 9 hosting the Ottawa Senators, play six of their first 10 in Nashville giving them a chance to build early momentum.
Here are some things to know about the Predators:
CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN: Weber returned to Nashville earlier than usual this offseason for informal workouts with his teammates looking to build on one of the best seasons of his career. The defenseman had a career-high with 56 points, and he tied his career-high with 23 goals. He tied for third in scoring among NHL defensemen and was a Norris Trophy finalist yet again.
GOALMASTER: A hip infection cost Rinne all but 24 games last season. Rinne still went 17-11-3 and was 3-0-1 in his final four games. Better yet, Rinne played in the World Championships to hone his game, and he was named the tournament MVP. With Rinne out, the Predators found their backup in Carter Hutton, who went 20-11-4 last season.
NUMBERS: The Predators struggled far too often putting the puck in the net last season and finished 19th in the NHL averaging 2.61 goals per game. But scoring more isn't the only area they must improve because the Predators were even worse giving up 2.84 goals a game — 23rd in the league. And they were 25th killing penalties.
NEWCOMERS: Nashville hopes some veteran additions can help boost the offensive production. Ribeiro and Roy both are on the roster with one-year deals, and Ribeiro has been a big scorer in his career before struggling with only 47 points in 80 games in Arizona last season. The 34-year-old center insists his personal issues have been addressed, and even his low numbers would have made him Nashville's fifth-best scorer. Roy had 37 points for the Blues last season and worked all summer in Toronto to rehab knee and shoulder injuries. Nashville sent Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling to Pittsburgh for Neal who is expected to bring the biggest boost. He scored 61 points last season, which would have made him Nashville's leading scorer. Jokinen, 35, had 43 points last season with Winnipeg, which would put him among the Predators' best scorers.
FISHER'S RETURN: The fourth-leading scorer last season with 49 points, Mike Fisher currently is rehabilitating a torn right Achilles tendon. He was projected to miss up through December but was walking without a boot or other support when training camp opened.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker