NASHVILLE – Predators coach Barry Trotz said a "high probability" exists that forwards Alex Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn will return to the lineup on Monday for Game 5 his team's Western Conference Semifinal series against the Phoenix Coyotes after they each missed the last two games.
Nashville trails in the series, 3-1, and Radulov leads the team in points with six in the Stanley Cup Playoffs while Andrei Kostitsyn's four tie him for fourth on the team. The players were suspended for Game 3 for a violation of team rules and then held out as a hockey decision for Game 4 after the Preds won Game 3 by 2-0 with a different lineup.
After Nashville lost 1-0 on Friday, Trotz said he was unhappy with the performance of several players. He said he had spoken to both Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn on Friday and again on Saturday morning. The team did not practice on Saturday, but Trotz and a few players spoke with the media via conference call.
"I think there's a high probability that they'll both go in," Trotz said. "I think they're motivated. There's some guys, as I said, that didn't bring their best games and therefore I think there would be a couple of changes."
So after a week, the saga has come full circle. Last Saturday was when the players stayed out too late the night before a game – an act Trotz said on Thursday was the basis for the suspension – and now this Saturday, Trotz said he liked the responses he has received from both players.
"They wanted to be a in a position and their hoping to be in a position so they can get on the ice and help," he said. "I said you've got to wrap your arms around the situation we're in and be ready to go. That's what I've asked. They're getting in the mindset that they're ready to go. They want to help this team. They're not happy that we're down 3-1 in this series. You're a player and you've been a good player for a long time and 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."
Having Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn back in the lineup might not be the only changes that Trotz makes. During Game 4, Colin Wilson received a late-game promotion to the team's top line with center Mike Fisher and right wing Martin Erat in the spot where Sergei Kostitsyn normally plays. Sergei Kostitsyn has one goal and one assist and is minus-3 in the playoffs.
Wilson, 22, was a healthy scratch for the first six games of the playoffs. But in Game 4, he was arguably the Preds' best player. Trotz said he liked how Wilson, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, used his big body to fight for and create space. The coach said he would consider using Wilson on that top line, which has remained intact for the last four-plus months.
Asked if he would consider moving Wilson to that line, Trotz said he would have "lots of consideration" for that.
"Yeah, absolutely, they need to get a little bit off the schneid offensively," Trotz said of the line. "No question I'm looking to do that."
For much of the season, Wilson played on one of the Preds' top two lines and finished with 15 goals and 20 assists in 68 regular season games. Wilson said receiving that in-game promotion was rewarding.
"The coaches, they certainly don't give you any of your ice time," he said. "You have to earn it. It was nice to get out with those guys. They're offensive, as well. It's nice. I have played with Marty. I've never played with Fish. Marty's a great playmaker. He's very easy to play with, so it was nice to get moved onto that line."
Author: John Manasso | NHL.com Correspondent