No decision yet on return of Radulov and Kostitsyn
— Here’s the question facing Nashville coach Barry Trotz: Should he bring back forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn following onegame suspensions?
Whether it was addition by subtraction or desperation, the Predators played with much more discipline without Radulov and Kostitsyn. They beat Phoenix 2-0 on Wednesday night to cut the Coyotes’ lead to 2-1 in the Western Conference semifinal.
Radulov and Kostitsyn were suspended for an apparent curfew violation before Game 2 in Phoenix, and general manager David Poile has said the decision on when they return to the lineup is up to Trotz.
“I know it is going to be very tough if I do anything,” Trotz said Thursday after practice. “I thought everyone was pretty committed. So I can’t give a definite decision right now because I don’t have that. The guys that were in got the job done, and they played very hard. It would be very difficult for me to give you an exact lineup for tomorrow.”
Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo played with Radulov and Kostitsyn out. Tootoo had played only once this postseason because Trotz was unhappy with his play late in the season. His hits helped set the tone for his teammates.
“He was a factor in the game, in terms of being hard to play against. That is our identity. We have to be hard to play against,” Trotz said.
With his teammates playing better in front of him, Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne returned to his usual stingy form after giving up nine goals in the first two games in Phoenix. The 6-foot-5 Finn made 32 saves in notching his first playoff shutout.
“We played desperate hockey and showed a lot of character when we faced maybe some adversity,” Rinne said.
The Coyotes remain confident after their first road loss of these playoffs. Coach Dave Tippett said Thursday their defencemen didn’t help goalie Mike Smith on the two quick goals in the first period.
“Now we’ve got to look for a split,” Tippett said. “If we can get that win, you’re going home with a chance to close out the series.”