When the Predators hit the ice tomorrow night for Game Three against Phoenix, they will be without two of their more dynamic forwards.
Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn were suspended today for a violation of team rules, a decision that Predators GM David Poile said was an easy one to make.
“I’ve been a general manager for 30 years and always try to treat each individual player with care, but never ever put the individual player ahead of the team. In this situation, both of these players violated a team rule,” Poile said. “It’s very disappointing. Obviously, any time something like this would happen would be disappointing. In the playoffs it’s even more so, to take out of the lineup two of your better hockey players.
“We’ve put the team ahead of a couple individual players and we’ll see where we go from here.”
Poile would not go into the details of the rule violation, but did express disappointment in the actions of two players that he picked up late in the season for this time of year.
“What they did was unacceptable. The coaches and myself had to come to the plate and do the right thing for the team,” Poile said. “It’s really unfortunate, it’s selfish behavior – we’ll just have to leave it at that.”
Head coach Barry Trotz added, “The Nashville Predators are about a team, they are about accountability, and they are a team that you expect certain rules and behaviors to be followed. They weren’t so there are consequences – plain and simple.”
Radulov expressed some remorse for his actions during his brief meeting with the media following today’s practice.
“Obviously I’m disappointed and understand that is was my mistake, and I really hope everything is going to work out for the team,” he said.
Poile mentioned that this situation has been a “big distraction” for the team. However, the players know they won without Radulov and Kostitsyn before they were obtained, and they believe they can win without them in Game Three.
“We’ve won all year with everyone and it’s going to take everyone to continue to win,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “Tomorrow night, whoever is going to play, the 20 guys that are in the lineup have to come out and play the way we are capable of playing.”
Captain Shea Weber added, “(Radulov and Kostitsyn) are great offensively, but there are guys chomping at the bit that have been practicing hard and staying in shape; they are ready to go. There are other guys that contribute here and it’s going to be a team effort.”
Both Suter and Weber said they had no say in the suspensions and that the decision was up to Poile and Trotz.
As Weber mentioned, some motivated players that have not played in recent games are going to get a chance to prove themselves tomorrow night. In Game Two it was Colin Wilson; tomorrow it could be the likes of Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo, who have yet to play in this series.
“We talked back before the playoffs started that (we’re) going to need everybody,” Trotz said. “(Radulov and Kostitsyn) are not available tomorrow, and two guys are going to go in and have to get the job done.
“We just [have to] go back to our team game. Let’s go back to Predator Hockey. Let’s go back to our identity, play that team game, be determined on the puck, be a little bit relentless, make sure we’re taking care of business on both sides of the puck and go from there. That’s plain and simple; that’s what we have to do.”
Trotz would not say whether Radulov or Kostitsyn would be available for Friday’s Game Four.
“We’ll just see how Game Three goes,” he said. “Right now they are out for the one game.”