Commentary

Radulov, Kostitsyn might sit again

Updated: May 3, 2012, 9:24 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

NASHVILLE -- The night owls were skating on an all-scratch line with rookie Craig Smith in practice Thursday, suggesting perhaps that Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn might sit out another game.

Head coach Barry Trotz, however, wouldn't definitively make that announcement after practice.

"Honestly, I haven't put a lot of thought in it right now. Obviously, it's something I'm going to have to think about," Trotz said. "... We'll make a decision as a group. I know it's going to be very tough if I do anything. I thought everybody was pretty committed. I can't make or give you a definite decision right now because I don't have that. But the guys that were in got the job done and played very hard, so it would be very difficult for me at this point to give you an exact lineup for [Friday].''

Give Radulov credit -- he spoke again with the media Thursday and isn't hiding from the story. Watching instead of playing was torture for him.

"It was hard, but I'm happy the team battled through it and they won. That's the main thing,'' said Radulov.

Asked if he'd lobby Trotz to get back in, he said that's not his style.

"I'm not going to go and ask because usually they say it after a morning skate [Friday],'' said Radulov. "I don't think it's right to go and ask. The guys played well yesterday. I mean, I want to play, but it's not like I'll go and ask for it. Whatever happens tomorrow, happens. Just make sure we're ready for the game."

I asked Trotz if and when the time comes to re-insert his two curfew breakers, whether he feels he ought to put both players back in at the same time or if he reserves the right to just play one player. Which was really my way of asking if he'd put Radulov back in ahead of Kostitsyn, given Radulov's higher skill set.

"I'm actually fine with putting one in,'' said Trotz. "I don't consider that the package has to be both guys. If there's one player that needs to come out for tomorrow, and they're both there, then I'll just put one in.''

Everyone seemed in high spirits at practice Thursday so the story seems to be fading. Mind you, Predators winger Jordin Tootoo was seen skating up to Radulov early in practice and saying something to him that the Russian star didn't seem overjoyed to hear. Then again, it's a dangerous thing to try to read facial expressions.

"Just part of practice, everyone chats out there,'' said Tootoo when asked about it afterward.

So there was nothing else to it?

"No,'' said Tootoo. "Part of practice is communicating out there. And that's what we did.''

Traditionally, a coach rarely changes his lineup after a winning effort. But this isn't your normal situation. My sense is that Trotz also wants to read the reaction of both players before he decided to re-insert them at some point.

"They both knew that they made a mistake," said Trotz. "They do care about what happens with the team. 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'll support it.''

In the meantime, Radulov, a former KHL MVP, can only sit and wait.

"Well, it's up to the coaches," said Radulov. "They control that. I work hard out there in practice and whatever will be, will be, just make sure everything is good for the team."