NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators announced on Tuesday morning that they will hold top-six forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov out of Game 3 of their Western Conference Semifinal series with the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN) for an unspecified violation of team rules.
"The Nashville Predators have a few simple rules centered around doing the right things," general manager David Poile said in a statement. "We have always operated with a team-first mentality and philosophy. Violating team rules is not fair to our team and their teammates."
Poile expanded upon that statement in a brief session with reporters.
"I've been a general manager for 30 years and I always try to treat each individual player with respect and never put individual player ahead of the team," Poile said. "They violated a team rule. They were aware of them. … They know they're not playing in the game. This has been a big distraction to our hockey team to make this announcement today so our players will be prepared for Game 3 (Wednesday) night.
"It's very disappointing. Any time something like happens it's disappointing. In the playoffs to hold out arguably two of your better players … it's a pretty easy decision. I always try to do the right thing in my personal life, in my business life. I put the team ahead of individual players."
Poile did not reveal which team rule was broken by the players and said it will be up to coach Barry Trotz whether either, or both, play in Game 4.
"I'm not going to expand upon it," he said. "Everyone has team rules. Again, what they did was unacceptable."
Trotz said the decision was about accountability.
"You always have to do what's right," he said. "You always talk about accountability, we always talk about that. We're a group. It's just like we're a family member. They made a mistake and have to sit this one out. We'll get it done without them."
Radulov was asked a question about whether he knew he was violating a team rule and answered in a way that suggested he had missed curfew.
"Yeah, I mean, I didn't come back that late. … But like I said before, I don't want to talk about it. They did what they have to do. I'm good with that. Not good -- don't get me wrong. I'm disappointed and I understand what was my mistake. I really hope that everything's going to work out for the team better. If I get a chance to play again in the future I'll help the team to win. That's about it."
Andrei Kostitsyn did not speak to the media.
Radulov said his conversation with Poile was between the two of them and that he supported the team going forward.
"I'm going to be all there for the whole team and all the guys and support the team," he said. "Whatever I can do from myself and all the guys go out there and win in game number three. … I don't want to get into it because I don't think it's good and stuff. Hopefully, everything's going to go well for our team. We'll battle through it."
He expressed a level of remorse about the incident and said he addressed his teammates.
"Well, yeah, I did [speak to the team]," he said. "Yeah. Before, but it's been a whole situation about it. Something I was wrong, but something I think it's not the way it was. But, like I said, I don't want to get into it and try to prove anything. It was something that I didn't do right."
At the start of practice Tuesday at Centennial Sportsplex, Kostitsyn and Radulov raised eyebrows when they were doing line rushes in yellow jerseys along with enforcer Brian McGrattan, who has yet to play in the playoffs.
Trotz reportedly had a meeting with Radulov at the team hotel in Phoenix on Sunday after the Preds' 5-3 loss in Game 2. On Monday, Trotz would not disclose what was said in the meeting. Asked if Radulov would play in Game 3, Trotz responded by saying he could not answer the question because he did not know. He said there were a lot of players who could be flipped out.
Radulov made his return to the Preds in March after playing four seasons in the KHL. He was the leading scorer in the series in Nashville's five-game Western Conference Quarterfinal victory over Detroit with five points. But he has gone minus-3 in the first two games and was the subject of blistering criticism on the national broadcast on Sunday by NBC Sports Network analyst Keith Jones for lack of effort and lack of execution.
Kostitsyn, whose brother Sergei also plays for the Predators, was acquired at the trade deadline from Montreal. Detroit coach Mike Babcock cited his presence on the third line as a reason why Nashville won that series, as the Red Wings could not match the Predators' depth. He scored a goal in Game 2.
Radulov leads the Predators in playoff scoring with six points. Kostitsyn, with four points, is tied for second.
Trotz scrambled the lines at practice -- except for the top line of Sergei Kostitsyn, Mike Fisher and Martin Erat, which has remained sacrosanct for months.
David Legwand skated with left wing Gabriel Bourque and right wing Patric Hornqvist (Legwand formerly centered Radulov and Bourque); Matt Halischuk, who has played in only three of seven playoff games this spring, skated with center Paul Gaustad and right wing Jordin Tootoo, who has yet to play in this series; and Brandon Yip skated with center Nick Spaling and rookie Craig Smith.
Author: John Manasso | NHL.com Correspondent