Preds sorely lacking focus, discipline

Phoenix Coyotes Daymond Langkow, left, skates against Nashville Predators Kevin Klein in Game Four...

Phoenix Coyotes Daymond Langkow, left, skates against Nashville Predators Kevin Klein in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bridgestone Arena on May 2, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Frederick Breedon/Getty Images/AFP)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:17 PM ET

PHOENIX - The Nashville Predators are one loss away from having another season so full of promise ended before they had hoped.

The Predators have been stymied and beaten at their own game by the Phoenix Coyotes who have been more disciplined defensively and more opportunistic offensively. The Predators are down 3-1 to the Coyotes and face elimination Monday night in Game 5.

Just a thought, but it probably wouldn’t hurt the Predators’ chances of surviving if they got a big game from their captain, Shea Weber. The guy who seems to be the consensus pick for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenceman has had a pretty quiet series.

He’s minus-2 and has eight shots and eight hits in the four games so far. He’s got one assist.

At this time of the year, they need more from him than that.

Not to mention the optics of what’s happened to the Predators in this series with Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn missing curfew before Game 2. They were suspended by the team for Game 3 and were healthy scratches for Game 4.

The captain of a team can’t know everything that is going on with every player and players are ultimately responsible for their own decisions, but it makes you wonder how strong the leadership in the Nashville room is when something like that happens.

Okay, in this case maybe Radulov and Kostitsyn would have done what they did even if Mark Messier was captain.

It might have just been a comment about his own club, but it was interesting to hear Phoenix coach Dave Tippett talk about his team after Friday’s 1-0 win in Game 4 in Nashville to put the Predators on the precipice.

“We’ve got leadership in the dressing room that keeps the guys on the straight and narrow,” said Tippett.

If the Coyotes have been on the straight and narrow, the Predators have been on the crooked and wide, which could apply to a whole bunch of things, including a description of the club’s shooting in Game 4. They had a bunch of good looks against Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith but squandered them without even forcing Smith into make a tough save. The Preds missed the net 14 times, a half dozen of those from prime scoring positions.

Much of the talk going into Game 5 will be about the likelihood of Radulov and/or Kostitsyn returning to the lineup.

“I think there is a high probability that they will both go in. I think they are motivated,” said Predators coach Barry Trotz Saturday. “There are some guys who I thought didn’t bring their best games; therefore, I think there will be a couple changes.”

Radulov is still the Predators leading playoff scorer despite missing the last two games. His ability to potentially exploit a little opening is something Nashvillians need right now when goals are so hard to come by.

Trotz met with the pair Saturday morning and said he thinks they are in the right frame of mind to return.

“They are part of our family, and they want to be in a position to get on the ice and help. I said, ‘you have to wrap your arms around the situation that we are in and be ready to go,’ and that is what I have asked them. They are getting in that mindset that they are ready to go and want to help this team,” said Trotz.

“They are not happy we are down 3-1 in this series. When you are a player - and have been a good player for a long time - you want to be on the ice, you don’t want to be in the stands. They are back in the right mindset that they can make a difference here.”

There should be a bunch of Predators thinking the same thing.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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