Predators need to get back to 'our identity'

Predators forward Alexander Radulov celebrates a goal against the Red Wings during Game 5 of their...

Predators forward Alexander Radulov celebrates a goal against the Red Wings during Game 5 of their NHL Western Conference quarterfinal series at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., April 20, 2012. (M.J. MASOTTI JR./Reuters)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:07 AM ET

NASHVILLE - The game was long over, but the talk wasn't.

In an alcove of the team's hotel in Phoenix, Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz huddled with winger Alexander Radulov. The pair had a long discussion -- it wasn't hard to figure out about what -- and it was clear Trotz would be having similar talks with a few other of his players.

The Predators, down 2-0 to the Phoenix Coyotes in a series that has shifted to Nashville for Games 3 and 4, will need Radulov and a number of other players to be vastly improved if they don't want to be swept. Radulov was ripped by NBC analyst Keith Jones for his play, but he's not the only guy who has to be better.

David Legwand and Gabriel Bourque, Radulov's linemates, were both minus-3 in the game (Radulov was minus-2).

"His line has to get going. They were real good in the last series, especially in Game 5 they were dominant," Trotz said after the Coyotes beat the Predators 5-3 in Game 2.

It's not that the Predators need guys like Radulov to score goals right now. They've scored six so far in the series. What the Predators need is a better defensive effort from their blueline on out.

"Our best players have to be our best players, and they weren't in the first two games," Trotz said Monday. "For spurts they were, I think more so in the first game than the second game. When it's all said and done, we're going to need production from everybody in the lineup. Our top players have to be our top players, and I would say so far, that's not the case.

"We're getting beat by a little bit of our own formula -- some good goaltending, a healthy dose of team defence and healthy dose of work ethic. We have to get back to our identity a little bit."

Pekka Rinne has given up nine goals in the series, but Trotz wasn't concerned about his goaltending.

"It's the team in front of him," he said.

• • •

It's only eight games in, but already the face of Phoenix defenceman Rostislav Klesla is telling the story of the price guys are willing to pay in the playoffs.

The area around his right eye is marbled blue and yellow from a butt end he took in Game 6 of the first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

He left that game for repairs and returned wearing a full cage.

In Game 2 Sunday, he dropped the cage because he couldn't see the puck well enough. So he switched to a visor. Bad timing because he then he took a deflected puck right on the chin and had to leave again. He got stitched up, cleared his head and came back again, this time with a plastic guard around his jaw.

"It looks like a little bad luck out there," Klesla said. "Everything is tight. Everybody is battling. Everybody is pushing so hard. Emotions are high so you know you are going to get into some trouble. That's what kind of happened to me. Little scratches don't really count. When somebody hits your eye or you get a puck in the face it's more than the little scratches. It's something you can't really worry about. You keep going. That's playoff hockey.

"If you are going to battle and come back, it's at this time of year. When you can, you come back and help out in some way, even if you're hurting."

Klesla wound up playing just eight minutes in Game 2. He said his concern was for the other Coyotes defencemen who would have to pick up the slack in his absence.

"You want to relieve some ice time from the other five guys who are out there logging a lot more minutes. I know how it is when one guy goes down and you're used to playing six. It's better if you can come back and get the regular shift."

One of the reasons the Coyotes are where they are is that kind of spirit.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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