Nightcrawlers missed in Predators loss

Coyotes forward Shane Doan knocks Predators defenceman Hal Gill to the ice during Game 4 of their...

Coyotes forward Shane Doan knocks Predators defenceman Hal Gill to the ice during Game 4 of their NHL Western Conference semifinal series at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., May 4, 2012. (M.J. MASOTTI JR./Reuters)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:56 PM ET

NASHVILLE - Barry Trotz made his point.

Now it looks like the Nashville Predators coach might have to let forward Alexander Radulov try to make his.

The Predators, stifled by a hard-working bunch of Phoenix Coyotes, lost 1-0 in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal Friday night and are now down in the series 3-1. They will face elimination in Game 5 Monday in Phoenix.

Radulov, the Predators’ leading playoff scorer, was suspended for Game 3 and left out of the lineup for Game 4 along with fellow wayward nightcrawler Andrei Kostitsyn. They sat out Nashville's Game 3 victory for breaking curfew the night before Game 2 in Phoenix. Trotz said the punishment was over and they were scratched Friday because the coach didn’t want to change a winning lineup.

He also said he would consider returning just one of the players to the lineup, that they were not a package deal.

The suspension was a strong statement by Trotz and Nashville general manager David Poile, and they looked good when the Predators responded with a 2-0 win in Game 3.

They talked about doing the right thing and they did it.

Players can’t put themselves ahead of the team at any time, particularly in the playoffs.

Trotz decided to go with his Game 3 lineup for Friday night’s game -- why fix it if it doesn’t need fixing? -- but it’s clear if the Predators are going to stay alive, they will likely need Radulov’s scoring touch.

Still, Trotz was asked about his decision to not dress the pair for Game 4.

“I don’t think I have to defend it. The guys had chances, we created chances. You could say the ‘what’s ifs?’ Maybe they could have made a difference. We’ll never know that,” Trotz said. “The guys that played, played well and created lots of chances. We just have to bury one of them.

“There’s some guys I don’t think played particularly well today. They can play a little bit better. Yeah, there will be some changes. There will be.”

There was less room on the ice at Bridgestone Arena Friday night than on the many dancefloors in the honkey tonks along Broadway just outside the arena as the Coyotes used a 25-save shutout from Mike Smith and a goal by veteran Shane Doan for the win.

In such a tight game -- the Coyotes were playing a close-to-perfect road game -- the individual skill of a Radulov, that ability to be make something out of a small opening, is an asset.

The Predators power play, which went 0-for-3 Friday, could use the injection of Radulov’s talent. It is now 3-for-15 in the series.

His presence would also force the Coyotes coaching staff to redeploy their defensive assets and maybe create a little more room for some of Radulov’s teammates.

The Predators struggled on offence in Game 4. They had trouble firing the puck toward on net behind Smith as they shot wide 14 times (five from Patric Hornqvist, who had a couple great chances), 10 times in the second period.

“I thought we did a good job to pressure them to make those bad shots,” Smith said. “It’s one thing to have time and get a good look and get a shot away, but we forced them tonight where they got in situations where they had to shoot the puck quick. When you have to shoot the puck quick, you can’t get it on target. My D were outstanding tonight, back pressure was great and we found a way to sneak one out.”

The Predators looked like they might have tied it at 12:48 of the third on a scramble, but it was ruled the whistle was blown before the puck crossed the goal line.

The Predators' response Wednesday to the suspension of Radulov and Kostitsyn -- a great effort and a win in Game 3 -- was a good story.

A Radulov return in Game 5 might make for another one.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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