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Key contributors help Preds edge Panthers

The Nashville Predators returned to a .500 record on Tuesday when they took advantage of a struggling Florida Panthers team. Mike Fisher, Shea Weber and Craig Smith all notched a goal and an assist in the Predators 4-3 win. All three players have had good starts to the season after struggling in the shortened 2012-13 season.

Fisher registered only three points in the first 13 games last year but already has five points in six games this season, including two goals and three assists.

“I have been feeling pretty good,” the 33-year old said. “I’m using my legs and skating. I think it’s just trying to find chemistry in the linemates and they’re doing a good job. I just have to make sure that I’m consistently competing every night and trying to make a difference. Hopefully I can keep it going.”

Fisher’s goal came at 12:48 of the second period immediately after jumping on the ice to replace Matt Cullen at the end of his shift. The tally was set up by a perfect feed from Smith.

“It was a great play. I was coming in a little late on the play. Smith made a great play through a guy and just had an open lane,” Fisher said.

Smith, like Fisher, had a rough start to last season. But unlike Fisher, who finished tied for third in scoring on the team with 21 points (10g-11a), the Predators’ 2009 fourth-round pick had just 12 points (4g-8a) in 44 games.

In six games this season, Smith has one goal and three assists. He recorded his first goal of the season on Tuesday when he buried a rebound from Panthers goalie Jacob Markstrom. In 2012-13 it took Smith 11 games to register his first point and 17 games to score his first goal. On Tuesday night, Smith had one of his best games since his rookie season.

“He has been playing really well, skating well and competing,” Fisher said, adding, “He’s hard on pucks and he had a good training camp. I think he’s just feeling confident about his game. Even when he hasn’t been putting up points, he’s been working really hard, doing a lot of good things and getting and creating shots. That’s really good to see.”

Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz mentioned that Smith has matured since his rookie season.

“I think there were expectations for himself after the first year, and then it didn’t really happen for him. So, just starting again and just trying to keep playing a really consistent game and he has been,” Trotz explained.

Captain Shea Weber also picked up his first goal of the season. It took 14 games in the 2012-13 season before Weber was able to score and 10 games to register his first point. In six games, Weber has one goal and two assists.

The 28-year old believes that Tuesday’s balanced scoresheet is indicative of what the Predators have to do to keep winning games.

“We need to score by committee. We have a lot of guys in here who are good players. We need to do it together. We play a good defensive system and our defense is going to lead to offense.”

 
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