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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 6:54 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Wilson to start on top line for Preds

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Colin Wilson has been in this position before.

Wilson, a high draft pick filled with promise but lacking in high-end results, was a healthy scratch at the beginning of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs before dressing for the final three games and offering a glimmer of hope for future success.

Colin Wilson
Center - NSH
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 3 | +/-: 0
This year he played in only two of the final 12 games of the regular season and not at all against Detroit in the first round of the playoffs. He came back into the lineup for the Nashville Predators in Game 2 of this Western Conference Semifinal series against the Phoenix Coyotes, and in three contests has earned a promotion to the top line.

Maybe, just maybe, Wilson is starting to figure it out at the NHL level.

"An epiphany?" Wilson said. "Yeah, I think just the more throughout my career I've realized that nothing is being given to me in terms of ice time and just motivates me to play that much harder. Whatever they are telling me, I'm going to take it in, soak it in. That's what I've been doing lately, and I have been playing harder defensively. I have tried to step up my game after being healthy scratched." 
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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 6:36 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Projected lines for Coyotes for Game 5

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With David Schlemko in for Rostislav Klesla and Lauri Korpikoski a game-time decision, here is tonight's projected lineup for the Phoenix Coyotes:

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Marc Antoine Pouliot
Kyle Chipchura - Daymond Langkow - Gilbert Brule

Michal Rozsival - Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
David Schlemko - Adrian Aucoin

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera
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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 5:40 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Predators seek defining moment, series comeback

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Every team that wins the Stanley Cup has some defining moments along the way. Last year, it was a pair of overtime goals for Nathan Horton, a can-you-believe-it stick save by Tim Thomas and even when Horton was knocked out of the Cup Final by an illegal hit.

As fictional baseball manager Lou Brown put it, "All we need is something to bring it all together." The Nashville Predators are on the precipice of elimination Monday night, so if they're going to forge an improbable journey to a Stanley Cup championship, one of those series-shifting, season-defining events could happen in Game 5 of this Western Conference Semifinal series.

"We've got to look forward," coach Barry Trotz said. "Tonight is our chance to get a win in Phoenix so we can live another day. We think we have a really good group. I know we have a good leadership group in there. We've had to go through some things. I don't think any team that has done anything special in sport or has won anything hasn't gone through some adversity. Well, this might be our adversity. There are moments that pass you by that you look back 20 years from now and say, 'That was the moment.' You can make a difference, and tonight might be their moment.

"We can get back in the series a little bit and get it 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. We've just got to win a hockey game. It is going to be a moment-to-moment situation."

The big story leading into Game 5 is the return of Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn after missing the past two games. Radulov, the team's leading scorer with six points, and Kostitsyn, the joint goals leader with three, were held out of the lineup for Game 3 for a violation of team rules, which was reportedly breaking curfew the night before the last game here, Game 2.

They were also healthy scratches for Game 4 after the team played well in a 2-0 win in Game 3. The Predators were shut out in Game 4 by Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith, so the duo could be a spark for the offense.

"I have something to prove, basically not to [the media] or to somebody; first of all, it's to myself, and that's about it," Radulov said.

Radulov and Kostitsyn will skate on a line with Nick Spaling, at least to start the contest. Colin Wilson is expected to start on the top line after playing well the past two games. Kostitsyn's brother, Sergei, will drop to the fourth line.

"We practiced yesterday. Before that, we've had a few shifts together," Radulov said of playing with Spaling. "At this time of year, it basically doesn't matter who you play with. You just have to go out there and do your best and show effort and just try to win. We're down 3-1, so we don't have much. We just have to play hard and go out there and win the game."

Added Trotz: "[Radulov] is a pretty proud guy. He wants to be part of this series. He's going to be part of this series. He wants to make a difference. I think we'll talk to him and say, 'This is what we expect and you've got to be part of the format.' He can make a difference. ... I'm glad they want this challenge. It is a big challenge for them. They're coming into a situation where we're behind the eight ball, if you will. They can make a difference tonight. If they do, it might be the thing that changes the whole series."

Trotz said he told the two skilled forwards that they would be back in for Game 5 the morning after Game 4. Nashville had a sparsely-attended optional skate Saturday morning with an extra day off before Game 5, but Radulov and Kostistyn skated and Trotz told them afterwards.

"I just told them, 'You're back in and you can make a difference,'" Trotz said. "I told them, 'It is not going to be easy. People aren't going to let you off the hook. You're going to be judged. You're going to be weighed. All of those things.' I needed to tell them early so they could be in the right frame of mind that, 'Hey, I've got a big task in front of me and I know it is going to be challenging. I know I'm going to get questioned.' I wanted them to have the opportunity to prepare for success, and not just at the last minute say, 'Hey, you're in.' I don't think that would have been fair to them."

Here is the projected lineup for the Predators in Game 5 of this Western Conference Semifinal series against Phoenix at Jobing.com Arena:

Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque - David Legwand - Patric Hornqvist
Andrei Kostistyn - Nick Spaling - Alexader Radulov
Sergei Kostistyn - Paul Gaustad - Matt Halischuk/Jordin Tootoo/Craig Smith

Ryan Suter - Shea Weber
Hal Gill - Roman Josi
Kevin Klein - Francis Boullon

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 5:20 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Pouliot filling in admirably in Korpikoski's absence

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Coyotes winger Lauri Korpikoski ranked fourth on the Phoenix Coyotes with 17 goals and 37 points this season and wears a variety of hats for the team as a special teams performer and responsible checker.
 
But injuries have limited Korpikoski to just five games in the postseason and he has played in just three of the last eight games. Kopikoski is getting closer but is still a game-time decision for Monday night's Game 5 when the Coyotes will try to close out the Nashville Predators and advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
 
The Coyotes have a quandary. Marc-Antoine Pouliot has played very steady hockey (one assist, plus-one) in averaging about 10 minutes of ice in the last three games. And while Phoenix could use the added surge of offense, Korpikoski would have about a week to rest and get ready for the Western Conference Finals if Phoenix can advance on Monday.
 
"We'll see where he is today," said Tippett, sounding like he was ready to play without Korpikoski. "When we feel like he can contribute to the maximum, that's when he'll play."
 
Pouliot has been a pleasant surprise for the organization this year and his versatility -- playing both the wing and center spots -- and toughness fit in well in this type of series.
 
"He's filled in very well for Korpikoski," Tippett said. "He's a solid player, two-way player, strong on the boards and solid in all parts of the game. He hasn't gotten on the scoreboard, but if you look at the guts of the game he's a heavy player similar to a [Taylor] Pyatt. He's been a good player for us."
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 10:51 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Success in playoffs means thicker beards for Coyotes

The Phoenix Coyotes have gone farther in the playoffs than ever before, and they have the playoff beards to prove it.
 
Keith Yandle
Defense - PHX
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 7
SOG: 12 | +/-: 7
Defenseman Keith Yandle spent most of an interview scratching his facial hair and when asked about how he was enjoying the hockey rite of spring, he wasn't shy.
 
"It's awful. I spend all day picking things out of it. Food, loose objects, everything," Yandle said. "I love it because it's a sign we're still around fighting for the Stanley Cup. But it's not one of my favorite things."
 
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 9:41 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Coyotes forced to play Game 5 without Klesla

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Already without winger Raffi Torres for the rest of the playoffs, the Phoenix Coyotes will try to eliminate the Nashville Predators on Monday night with another player sitting out a suspension.

Rostislav Klesla
Defense - PHX
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 6
SOG: 19 | +/-: 1
Defenseman Rostislav Klesla will miss Game 5 after being suspended for one game for his boarding infraction against Nashville's Matt Halischuk in Game 4 on Friday night. Klesla was penalized on the play, but the League's Department of Safety ruled that Halischuk was defenseless as he chased a puck to the sideboards in part because Klesla grabbed his jersey before administering his check.

Klesla will likely be replaced by David Schlemko -- the only other defenseman to see time in the playoffs so far -- when they take a 3-1 series lead into Game 5 at Jobing.com Arena. Klesla's usual partner is Adrian Aucoin, but Schlemko skated with several partners during Sunday’s practice and the pairings could change.
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Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 2:21 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Preds need to solve Coyotes' stifling defense

NASHVILLE -- Just as the Phoenix Coyotes did to the Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- winning all but one game by one goal -- they are doing the same to the Nashville Predators.

Nashville lost Game 1 in overtime, Game 2 by two goals and Game 4 again by one goal in a 1-0 loss Friday night at Bridgestone Arena.
 
The Coyotes' defense has been stifling. They yielded only five shots in the first period to Nashville in Game 4 and 25 for the game. In that game – and even in Game 3 which Nashville won 2-0 – the Preds have had great difficulty getting shots through to the net.
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 2:52 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Being merely good wasn't good enough for Coyotes

NASHVILLE -- The Phoenix Coyotes played pretty well for about 58 1/2 minutes Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena. Some nights, that will be enough to mask a couple of glaring errors in the other 90 seconds or so.

A road game in the Western Conference Semifinals is not just "some nights," though. The Nashville Predators took advantage of the Coyotes during that blip and captured a 2-0 victory in Game 3.

Phoenix has another chance to assert its control of this series Friday night in Game 4, but the Coyotes want to limit the gaffes and apply more pressure in the offensive zone.

"We've talked about it. We didn't play a bad game. We were OK, but OK isn't going to win on the road in the playoffs. We have to be better than that," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said Friday morning. "We gave them ... both goals were not normal mistakes that we've had throughout the playoffs, and we've got to limit them. If we can limit those and play the game that we want to play -- a little bit harder, a little bit more direct at the net. If we do that, good things should happen."

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said he wasn't expecting to make any lineup changes after Game 3, but also didn't rule it out. One missing guy who isn't expected to return is Lauri Korpikoski, who has been absent for the past two contests in this series with an undisclosed injury.

Center Boyd Gordon did not skate Thursday at practice or Friday during a very optional morning workout, but if Tippett does make a change, it could be if he was unable to play after blocking a Shea Weber slap shot at close range Wednesday.

"There's adjustments to make, but we’ve got some healthy people and some non-healthy people," Tippett said. "We'll look at all the options. I'm not ruling out a change, but right now it looks like it will be the same."

Tippett made it clear Thursday that goaltender Mike Smith was not the primary player at fault when Nashville's David Legwand scored after Smith's pass behind his net was intercepted. The second goal came after Martin Erat stripped the puck from Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who has probably been Phoenix's top defenseman in this postseason, and set up Sergei Kostitsyn and Mike Fisher for a 2-on-0 at point-blank range.

Phoenix missed its own opportunities. Rostislav Klesla hit the far post with a shot during an odd-man rush, and the Coyotes squandered a 5-on-3 in the third period.

"There's some areas that we can clean up," Tippett said. "I thought the two goals we made some mistakes, and I would classify those as unearned chances for them, so there's some areas you got to clean up. There's always subtle little tweaks here and there to grab an advantage. If you take those two goals out, it was a pretty tight game. You're looking for a player to make a big play, or a line to have a great shift.

"There's ways to win. We've been a pretty good club at finding ways to win in tight situations. We just have to try to get back to that."

Here’s what the Coyotes lineup could look like for Game 4:

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Marc-Antoine Pouliot
Kyle Chipchura - Daymond Langkow - Gilbert Brule

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - Adrian Aucoin

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera


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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:44 PM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Hornqvist capitalizing on additional ice time

NASHVILLE -- Even before he was moved up to the Predators' second line when Alexander Radulov was held out of the lineup in Game 3 for violating team rules, right wing Patric Hornqvist started earning more ice time.
 
It’s a statement about Nashville's depth that coach Barry Trotz could take a player who led the team in goals with 27 during the regular season and put him on the third line for the first seven games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
 
Hornqvist admits that being on the third line changed his role somewhat to be more of a checking one than a scoring one.
 
"If you're on the third or fourth line, you have to make sure you don't get scored on," Hornqvist said. "Of course you want to create some offense, but first thought is always not to get scored on, and I think we did a really good job against Detroit (in the first round). Our line, we didn't get scored on, so, plus-3. Now, I just have to get on the board here, and think we really get going last game, so hopefully we can do the same here tonight."
 
Hornqvist has one goal in eight games so far, but his three assists in this Western Conference Semifinal series with Phoenix lead the team. He also was on ice for the Preds' first goal in Game 3, as his forechecking set up his linemates for the score, even though he did not earn an assist on the play.
 
Trotz said he has begun to increase Hornqvist's ice time. The Swede did not play more than 15:49 in the first round but has topped 16:29 in each of the first three games of this round, including 20:18 in Game 1, which went to overtime.
 
"I just think Patric is one of those guys who is capable of elevating his play all the time, and he is one of the most caring players that you'll find," Trotz said. "He is full of energy. He brings everything he's got every night, and when it's playoff time he brings a different level. I just felt that he needed to move up and be a bigger part of our success."
 
Trotz admitted that Hornqvist's ice time suffered as he was trying to get more time for others. That would be the late-season arrivals of Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn.
 
"I think I can't really control my ice time, that's about the coaches," Hornqvist said. "Against Detroit, I didn't play that much and I didn't play that good, and now this series I'm playing better and I play more. It's all about me, if I play good he put me out there."
 
While no one on the Preds would want to say it aloud, Hornqvist is perhaps the primary beneficiary of Radulov's being out of the lineup. He is the only change to Nashville's second line, which is centered by David Legwand and has Gabriel Bourque at left wing.
 
"I think we have a good line," Hornqvist said. "We play together before Rads come here and play really good. We have to get on our forecheck and get the puck deep and work their (defense). I think we did a great job with that last game."
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 11:42 AM

By John Manasso -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Predators series blog

Radulov, Kostitsyn out of lineup again for Game 4

NASHVILLE -- Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn will remain out of the Nashville Predators' lineup Friday for Game 4 against the Phoenix Coyotes, coach Barry Trotz said Friday morning.
 
"As long as we're winning, (Kostitsyn and Radulov) are OK," Trotz said. "We have to win. If someone doesn't play or we have an injury. They handled it quite well. They're top players all their life. They're not used to this."
 
Radulov had told the media earlier that he did not expect to be back in the lineup for Game 4 after he and Kostitsyn sat out Game 3 for a violation of team rules.
 
Trotz had said that if Nashville won -- and it did, 2-0 on Wednesday -- he would likely maintain the same lineup. That indication continued on Thursday when Radulov skated in practice with Kostitsyn and rookie Craig Smith, who was a healthy scratch for the game.
 
"I don't think so," Radulov said after an optional skate on Friday. "They said they don't want to change the lineup."
 
Trotz said he would use the same lineup, which means that right wing Jordin Tootoo and left wing Matt Halischuk will remain in the lineup. Trotz said he liked the physical impact that Tootoo made on the game. Tootoo drew a cross-checking penalty in the third period on Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris.
 
Halischuk also drew a penalty and was on the receiving end of a dangerous hit. He went head-first into the boards on a play in which Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin received an interference call. Halischuk went to the locker room after the play for further examination and said he was taken to a "quiet room," where players who are feared to have suffered a concussion are brought. Nonetheless, Halischuk, after the team said that his status was questionable, returned to the game and practiced on Thursday.
 
"I felt that the group responded really well and I expect the group to respond again," Trotz said. "(Radulov and Kostitsyn) are ready. When I told them, obviously, they want to be in, they want to have some vindication, if you will, but at the same time they were really good about being good pros. ... They understand they're ready to do whatever it takes to get back in."
 
Trotz said after watching the game film that it was "undeniable" that Nashville played much better in Game 3 than it had in the previous two with the different lineup. He said at this point, the decision was purely made as a hockey decision, whereas earlier it was a disciplinary decision.
 
Radulov said virtually the same words as Trotz -- that he was fine with it, as long as the team is winning. Since rejoining the Preds in March after four years in the KHL, he has tried to take the focus off of himself and put it onto his team, which he did again on Friday morning.
 
"Well, yeah, guys play well so I think they made the right change, the right decision," Radulov said. "So I stick up for them. They deserve it. That's the main thing."
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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres