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Smith, Tootoo appear likely to join Predators lineup

Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 3:02 PM

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

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Smith, Tootoo appear likely to join Predators lineup

NASHVILLE -- Predators coach Barry Trotz wouldn't say who will replace suspended forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn, but during the team's morning skate Wednesday before a critical Game 3 of this Western Conference Semifinal series it looked like Craig Smith and Jordin Tootoo will be in the lineup as the team tries to avoid falling behind 3-0 to the Phoenix Coyotes.

Radulov and Kostitsyn are suspended for this game because of a violation of team rules. Smith has played two postseason games for the Predators -- Game 5 against Detroit in the first-round clincher and Game 1 of this series. Tootoo played once, in Game 3 against the Red Wings.

"I'm not going to say I'm going to be a savior. This is a team effort," Tootoo said. "Part of my game is bringing the physicality and the energy. Maybe that is what we need this time, is a little spark. I know whoever is in the lineup is going to get the job done, and that is part of being a team. You rely on each other."

Added Trotz: "We just have to get back to our game tonight. The guys who are out -- Andrei and [Radulov] -- they weren't with us for 65 games or so. Guys that are going in have been together, so guys have been, be it a Craig Smith, has been on the power play. We've had other guys do it, like [Colin] Wilson, Smith, [Brandon] Yip. ... I think the depth makes it a little easier to recover. In the past, we've had some injuries that really threw us off and we couldn't recover from them."

Matt Halischuk, who hasn't played in three games, would also be an option for the Predators. The team has been carrying several extra forwards since trading for Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad before the trade deadline, and Radulov's late-season return from Russia crowded the mix even more.

Smith played 72 games during the season, finishing with 14 goals and 36 points. Wilson played 68 contests and had 35 points, but he was scratched for the first six games of this postseason.

"It makes it tough, but it is pretty competitive," Smith said. "The guys are coming in and if you've been here the whole year it was tough to keep your spot, but in the end it is what's best for the team. The 20 guys that they pick is what you have to feel is right, and you just have to go with it."

Patric Hornqvist will move up into the top six to replace Radulov, while Smith or Wilson could end up on the third line in Kostitsyn's spot.

Trotz said the team did not find out about Radulov's and Kostitsyn's rule violations until after Game 2.

"We did not know before Game 2," Trotz said. "We found out after Game 2. Hell would have had to freeze over for them to play in Game 2 if we knew before."

Radulov is the team's leading scorer in this postseason with six points, and Kostitsyn is tied for the team lead with three goals. Still, Trotz said their absences from the lineup could extend beyond the suspension.

"Tonight, if we get it done, I would expect that I will probably go back with the same group," Trotz said. "They'd be the group that gets it done."
Quote of the Day

He seemed to thrive on his own and didn't really need any push from me. I certainly don't want to get in the way of the coaches. You see how that goes sometimes. I never really worried about it and just enjoyed the ride.

— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers