- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- They’re b-a-a-a-c-c-c-k-k-k!
"I got something to prove, not to you guys or to somebody, but first of all to myself, and that's about it," Radulov said after the morning skate at Jobing.com Arena.
"In light of everything that's happened, we expect [Radulov] to be real, real good," said center Mike Fisher. "He loves to play, and we expect him to bring some energy and enthusiasm, like he normally does, and same as Andrei."
Radulov and Kostitsyn were suspended for Game 3 after breaking team curfew and didn’t dress for Game 4 as coach Barry Trotz decided not to mess with success.
But the Predators were shut out 1-0 on Friday and trail the series 3-1.
Back in go the two offensive players.
"Rad’s a pretty proud guy," Trotz said Monday morning. "He wants to be part of this series and he’s going to be part of this series. He wants to make a difference."
Trotz hopes reinserting the two late-season pickups will be the turning point his team needs.
"It’s a big challenge for them," Trotz said. "They’re coming into a situation where we’re behind the 8-ball. They can make a difference tonight in a very positive way. If they do, it might be the thing that changes the whole series. What we did in the past and why we did it were for all the right reasons and that won’t change. But we’ve got to look forward."
Trotz told the players Saturday morning, wisely wanting both players to spruce up and get their focus sharpened for Monday's game.
"I just told them, 'You’re back in. You can make a difference. It’s not going to be easy and people aren’t going to let you off the hook. You’re going to be judged, you’re going to be weighed, all those things,'" Trotz said. "I needed to tell them early so they could get in the right frame of mind."
Radulov and Kostitsyn will begin with defensively aware Nick Spaling as their center. Other changes see Colin Wilson replacing Sergei Kostitsyn on the top line with Fisher and Martin Erat. Sergei Kostitsyn was dropped to the fourth line after an ineffective Game 4.
The Preds sounded like a confident group despite being on the brink of elimination.
"We’re feeling good," Fisher said. "We know our position. Our focus is just tonight. We feel like the series could be the other way around with a bit of luck, and that’s not an excuse. That’s just the way it is. They’re playing well, they’re finding ways to win. And that’s what we need to do. They’re not outplaying us heavily, by any means."
The Preds’ mantra over the past few days, clearly, is that they’re the ones who can be the first team this spring to reverse a 3-1 series hole.
"Why not us? Every year someone does it," Fisher said. "No one has this year. Someone has to do, might as well be us."
Trotz has obviously been sharing that message with his players.
"I don’t think there’s a team that’s done anything special in sport that has won anything that hasn’t gone through some adversity," he said. "Well, this might be our adversity. There’s moments that pass you by. You’ll look back 20 years and say, 'That was the moment.' The moment that you can make a difference. Tonight might be their moment where they can be a difference and we get back into the series a little bit and get it back to 3-2. That’s all we can do. We’re not going to win the series tonight. No team has ever won three games in one night in the NHL, that I know of. So we just got to win a hockey game."
The Coyotes, who skated Monday morning across town in Scottsdale, will have to do without Rostislav Klesla, who was suspended one game by the NHL for a hit from behind in Game 4. David Schlemko will replace the veteran Klesla in the lineup.
"It’s unfortunate, we weren’t expecting that, but there’s nothing we can do about it,’’ Coyotes coach Dave Tippett told reporters in Scottsdale on Monday morning regarding Klesla’s suspension.
Schlemko has played in two playoff games this spring.
"He’s champing at the bit to make an impact," Tippett said. "He gets an opportunity tonight."