A day after picking up a shutout win over Phoenix in Game Three to get back in the series, Predators head coach Barry Trotz was bombarded with questions about the status of Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitysn for tomorrow’s Game Four.
The pair of dynamic forwards sat out last night in the Predators’ 2-0 victory. Now that their suspension is over, with the team trailing 2-1 in the series, Trotz now faces a tough decision as to whether either Radulov or Kostitsyn will play tomorrow.
Trotz, who said prior to Game Three that no changes would be made for Game Four if the team won, was indecisive when asked about his thought process for the decision.
“Honestly I haven’t put a lot of thought into it. Obviously it’s going to be something I have to think about. I know it’s going to very tough if I do anything,” he said after today’s practice. “The guys that were in [last night] got the job done and they played very hard. It’d be very difficult for me at this point to give you an exact lineup for tomorrow.”
The replacements for Radulov and Kostitsyn, Jordin Tootoo and Matt Halischuk, played solid in their absence. Trotz didn’t sound desperate to re-insert his suspended players into the lineup tomorrow.
“I thought everyone was pretty committed,” Trotz said of his team’s effort in Game Three.
Radulov had one assist and a minus-3 rating in the first two games of the series, while Kostitsyn scored in both games and was effective on the third line. The combined skill they possess will be tough to keep out of the lineup. However, the lineup that won in Game Three seems to be a better matchup against the Coyotes.
What it boils down to is whether Trotz would want to change the lineup when it got the team back on track last night, or if he would re-insert Radulov and/or Kostitsyn to bring some extra offense to the table. It’s a tough decision, for sure – one that likely won’t be made public until the pre-game skate prior to Game Four.
Trotz commended the attitude of both Radulov and Kostitsyn during this situation.
“They both knew that they made a mistake, but they do care about what happens with the team,” Trotz said. “They were cheering like crazy yesterday. They know it might prevent them from being in the lineup tomorrow, but they know it’s about trying to win this series. Whatever decision I make, they might not like it but they will support it.
“Their actions of how they practice and how they support their teammates will be very important going forward. As a family member you recognize that they made a mistake, they’re a part of the family. You don’t love them less. You just say they made a mistake, messed up and not really happy with that right now, but you’re still a part of the family. That’s how I think they’ll be treated within the group.”
Radulov spoke briefly with the media after today’s practice. When asked whether he would lobby to get back in the lineup for Game Four, he said, “It’s up to the coaches. I can’t control that. I have to control myself and work hard in practice. … I want to play but I won’t go and ask for it. Whatever happens tomorrow happens.”
Trotz added, “That’s very professional of Rads to do that.”
Andrei Kostitsyn did not speak to the media.
If Trotz stays true to his word all along, there won’t be any changes to the lineup. However, “If there is one player that needs to come out for tomorrow and they are both there (Radulov and Kostitsyn), then I’ll just put one in,” he said.