By Joshua Cooper,
Forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn will likely return to the Predators lineup for Game 5 of Nashville's Western Conference Semifinal series against Phoenix. That is the message Nashville Coach Barry Trotz said in a teleconference Saturday afternoon.
"I sat down and met with both players. I talked to both players [Saturday] morning, I talked to them yesterday, we've communicated," Trotz said. "They're part of our family and they want to be in a position and hoping to be in a position so they can get on the ice and help."
The question now is whether it will be too late to save the Nashville season. Nashville is down 3-1 to the Phoenix Coyotes. The Predators could have used them in Game 4, when they were shut out 1-0 by the Coyotes. In that contest, Nashville - mostly Patric Hornqvist - had several close chances, but couldn't put the puck in the net. In the second period, Hornqvist had Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith down in front of him and lots of open territory on the Phoenix net. He shot it over the goal.
"I have to score," Hornqvist said. "If I get that opportunity, I have to put one in the back of the net to get us to overtime. It was bad. I tried to get it up."
Despite missing the two games this series, Radulov is still the Predators' leading playoff scorer with six points in seven playoff games. Kostitsyn is Nashville's leading goal scorer in this series. He has two goals against the Coyotes.
"I think they're motivated," Trotz said. "There's some guys, I thought that didn't bring their best games and therefore I think there will be a couple of changes."
After being out for two games, there are some questions about both players. Do they feel jilted at the coaching staff? Did they receive the message? Can they re-mesh with their teammates? Trotz believes both players shouldn't have any issues getting back into the flow of the game. In fact, he expects it.
"They're not happy we're down 3-1 in this series," Trotz said. "When you're a player and been a good player for a long time, you want to be on the ice. You don't want to be in the stands, so they're back in the right mindset that they can make a difference here."
The Predators will have a tough road to come back from being down 3-1. No team this postseason that was down 3-1 came back to win their series. Coming into this season, teams have come back from down 3-1 just 8.7 percent of the time. The last time that occurred was when Philadelphia fell down 3-0 then won four straight to beat Boston in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinal.
"You also have to have a higher sense of urgency from the group because we have no wiggle room," Trotz said. "There are no ordinary plays, and I think you look at it as you are going to play hockey forever and that the season will continue on. We need to win so that we can continue on and live to the next game."
Josh Cooper reports for The Tennessean. Follow him @joshuacooper.
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