Tonight, after all the distractions since Game Two, the Predators will take the ice facing a must-win scenario down 2-0 in their second-round series against Phoenix.
“This will be a great test for us,” Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ve had some adversity in the last couple days, a lot of talk and rumor and all that. What it really comes down to is the 20 guys going on the ice tonight, a couple coaches and a bunch of fans trying to beat the Phoenix Coyotes. That’s really what it’s going to be about.”
The Predators have a player that has been in a similar situation before. Hal Gill was with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 when they were down 2-0 to the Washington Capitals in the second round. The Penguins came back to win that series and the Stanley Cup that spring.
“What makes the playoffs great is it’s always [about] the next game,” Gill said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re up or down, it’s the next game. We have to focus on that and put everything behind you. It’s a fresh start. We just have to go and play the right way.”
Kevin Klein believes Gill’s experience of being in this situation can be helpful for the Predators.
“He’s a leader and has had a lot of experiences,” Klein said of Gill. “He’s always talking, always sharing words of wisdom. He’s not shy to say anything or step up and talk. That’s a good thing; you need that in your room.”
The Predators have their backs against the wall, and a few players said that’s when they have played some of their better hockey in recent years.
“We’ve shown a lot of character at many points this season,” Pekka Rinne said. “When we’ve needed it we’ve always seemed to have that answer or response. That’s something we know we have in this locker room.”
In each of the first two games in this series, Phoenix has gotten off to the better start and has scored first. Knowing the Coyotes are at their best when scoring first, and the fact of the situation the Predators are in, Patric Hornqvist and company are preaching a fast start tonight.
“We have to come out flying like (the Coyotes) did in Phoenix; they were all over us in the first 10 minutes. It’s hard to get the momentum back after that,” Hornqvist said. “We have to try to do the same thing here tonight.”
During this morning’s post-skate press conference, Barry Trotz cleared the air in relations to some rumors regarding the suspensions of Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn.
“I’ll throw this out because I think it’s been asked on a lot of shows: We did not know [about Radulov and Kostitsyn] before Game Two; we found out after Game Two. Hell would have had to freeze over for them to play in Game Two if I (would have known) before.”
Trotz also said that if the Predators win tonight, he expects to go with the same lineup – without Radulov or Kostitsyn – in Game Four on Friday.