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Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Expect the return of Predator-style hockey

By Pierre LeBrun



NASHVILLE -- We should not assume that Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn are benched for only one game.

There’s no way Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz messes with his lineup if his team wins Game 3 on Wednesday night to get back in the series.

“Obviously with our situation, tonight if we get it done, I would expect I would probably go back with the same group, the group that gets it done,” Trotz said Wednesday morning.

And then, as if he was just waiting for someone to ask, the coach decided to stamp out a rumor that’s been circulating: That somehow he knew before Sunday’s game that Radulov and Kostitsyn had broken curfew the previous night.

“I’ll throw this out because it has been asked on a lot of shows: We did not know before Game 2,” Trotz said. “We found out after Game 2. Hell would have had to freeze over if they would have played Game 2 if I knew before. That’s how I am; that’s how the management team is and that’s how the Nashville Predators are run.

“There’s been a lot of speculation that we knew and that’s a bunch of crap. We didn’t. I just wanted to throw that out there because it’s been asked a lot, but not never to me.”

To say Trotz is disappointed in those two players is a massive understatement. But I also think he’s a clever coach. He’s making the best out of a bad hand here. He knows this is a moment that can galvanize his team, which needs a spark down 2-0.

From player to player Wednesday morning in the Predators' dressing room, you got the sense that’s exactly what’s transpiring.

I expect a much better effort from the Preds on Wednesday night. They deviated from their game in Phoenix. Perhaps because most people picked them to win the series, I feel like the Preds tried to put on a show in Phoenix instead of playing Predators hockey, which is a defense-first philosophy.

By benching Radulov and Kostitsyn, two late-season additions, the Preds can go back to almost their original lineup. And that can be a good thing when you’re trying to re-establish your team identity.

“The guys that are out tonight, Andrei and Rad, they weren’t with us for 65 games or so,” Trotz said. “The guys who are going in have been together. A Craig Smith has been on the power play. We’ve had different people do that. They are going to be put in roles. They did it for 65 games. They’re going to be fine tonight."

The Coyotes, of course, know what’s coming at them. It’s not rocket science. The Preds are down 2-0, they’re desperate and they’re at home. Buckle up, boys.

“Yeah, if it was coming home to my building I know the home team would come out flying, and we expect that tonight from them,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said Wednesday morning. “We have to ready for it. We can’t sit back and wait. We have to go after it ourselves.”

And the fact they’re going to miss Radulov and Kostitsyn isn’t seen as a positive in the Coyotes' room.

“You look at what they did before those guys got there; they were a great team already,” Doan said. “Sure those two guys made them better, but it’s not as if they were struggling beforehand. They’ve got a great team over there. We’re going to have to be real good tonight.”

Trotz would not confirm his lineup, but I expect Jordin Tootoo to play his first game of the series. He’s going to bring the kind of energy at home that the Preds can feed off.

“I’m not going to put a lot of pressure on myself,” Tootoo said after the morning skate. “I’m going to do what I’ve been doing all year long: bringing energy. The playoffs are physically demanding, and I think I’m a player that can bring some of that game and wear those guys down. If I’m in the lineup, I’ll be ready.”