Perhaps Alexander Radulov or Andrei Kostitsyn — positively or negatively — would have made an impact for the Nashville Predators Friday night.
Suspended by the club for Game 3 of the club's Western Conference semifinal against the Phoenix Coyotes, the curfew-breaking pair didn’t play in Game 4 either, thanks to a Nashville victory on Wednesday.
So the Predators wind up without two of their top offensive players for a pivotal game Friday and don’t score a goal in a 1-0 loss. The Coyotes lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and can wrap it up next Monday at home.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz and general manager David Poile can’t be blamed for benching the pair for Game 3. Nor can Trotz be blamed for sticking with the same lineup for Game 4, leaving Jordin Tootoo and Matt Halischuk in uniform for another night.
If Radulov and Kostitsyn weren’t overly popular with their teammates before, they certainly won't be now.
Trotz has no choice but to re-insert the pair for Game 5. Radulov leads the Predators in playoff scoring with six points. Kostitsyn is tied for the team lead with three goals.
We should find out what kind of heart the two have provided they play Game 5. If either of them takes so much as one shift off, Trotz and the rest of the Predators organization will have their answer.
Try as they did, the Predators couldn’t score in the third period despite crashing the crease of Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith on just about every shift. With just over seven minutes remaining, Nashville thought it had tied the game, but referee Dan O’Halloran lost sight of the puck and blew his whistle. Predators forwards Mike Fisher, Patric Hornqvist and Martin Erat all jammed away at the puck until the play was blown dead ... Shane Doan doesn’t need to do anything at this point in his career to prove he is a good captain, but there he was knocking over the 6-foot-7 Hal Gill to take control of the puck and score the Coyotes’ goal. Gill managed to get back in the play, but not in time to stop Doan from releasing a backhand that eluded Predators netminder Pekka Rinne ... Nashville defenceman Ryan Suter, who will be an unrestricted free agent in July, had his bacon saved by Rinne when the game was 0-0. Bothered by Phoenix's Antoine Vermette, Suter lost control of the puck and it squirted out to Phoenix's Mikkel Boedker. Rinne coolly stood his ground and made a point-blank save ... Coyotes defenceman Rostislav Klesla had a brain cramp 6 1/2 minutes into the game when he drilled Halischuk into the boards from behind. Klesla was tagged with a boarding minor and was lucky that Halischuk was not hurt. NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan might want to give it a longer look, given that Klesla used his left hand to help guide Halischuk into the boards ... Nashville’s Paul Gaustad and Phoenix’s Kyle Chipchura seemed like odd fighting foes when they dropped the gloves in the first period, there is a history between the two. When Gaustad was with the Buffalo Sabres and Chipchura with the Anaheim Ducks, the two scrapped with each other in December 2010 ... Smith didn’t help himself with some shaky handling of the puck, but he was on point for a 25-save performance. Toward the end of the second, Smith had to be on his toes to stop a high backhand by Brandon Yip ... Tootoo put the Predators in a hole early when he was penalized for interference on Keith Yandle. The puck was gone, but Tootoo figured it was a good idea to shove Yandle from behind. A dumb penalty, but Nashville killed off the Phoenix power play.
FROM THE HASH MARKS
Hornqvist will have plenty to think about this summer if his club is eliminated by the Coyotes. It seemed that every time Nashville had a scoring chance in Game 4, Hornqvist was in the middle of it. Except he did not have an actual shot on goal until the third period, instead missing the net five times and having three other attempts blocked in the first 40 minutes. If it’s about bearing down in the playoffs, Hornqvist, who finished with three shots on goal, four shots blocked and five misses, failed miserably ... Nashville, it’s fair to say, will need more from stud defenceman Shea Weber in Game 5. Weber must have a bigger presence with his team’s season on the line next Monday ... Why is there always an argument for four-on-four hockey in overtime whenever there is a game not decided until double- or triple-overtime? The reason why people can remember Keith Primeau or Pat LaFontaine scoring in overtime after most of the continent was in bed is because it does not happen often. Let teams keep playing five-on-five until there is a goal. It’s bad enough that a skills competition decides games tied after overtime in the regular season. Don’t mess with sudden-death overtime in the playoffs as it stands now.