NHL PLAYOFFS: COYOTES AT PREDATORS

Suspending 2 stars may motivate Nashville

2012-05-02T00:00:00Z Suspending 2 stars may motivate NashvilleBob McManaman The Arizona Republic Arizona Daily Star
May 02, 2012 12:00 am  • 

GLENDALE - The Nashville Predators are down 0-2 to the Coyotes in more ways than one.

Not only do they trail in the series, but they will be without their top two scorers in the playoffs for Game 3 tonight in Nashville.

The Predators suspended forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for violating unspecified team rules. Radulov hinted the two had missed curfew on the eve of Sunday's Game 2.

"Yeah, I mean, I didn't come back that late," said Radulov, who leads the team with six postseason points. "I don't want to talk about it. They did what they have to do. I'm good with that. … Don't get me wrong, I'm disappointed, and I understand that was my mistake. I really hope that everything's going to work out for the team. If I get a chance to play again in the future, I'll help the team win. That's about it."

Phoenix said the suspensions may rally the Predators.

"We realize that Nashville is going to come out and play probably their best game of the series in Game 3, probably out of desperation," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

"What their lineup is is inconsequential to us. We've got to concentrate on the things we have to do that we think will improve our game."

Predators head coach Barry Trotz said he would replace the two Russians from a mix that includes veterans Jordin Tootoo and Matt Halischuk, and rookie Craig Smith.

"I don't think it really matters," Coyotes goalie Mike Smith said. "They're in the playoffs, they're in the second round for a reason, and they have good players. … We just have to worry about ourselves."

Coyotes captain Shane Doan agreed.

"They've got a real good team, with or without them," he said. "We're going to have to play good."

Predators general manager David Poile is leaving the decision on whether Radulov and Kostitsyn return for Game 4 on Friday night up to Trotz.

"Violating team rules is not fair to our team and their teammates," Poile said in a statement.

Nashville forward Sergei Kostitsyn said his brother and Radulov have showed remorse. Radulov said he had apologized in front of the team following Sunday's 5-3 loss.

"It's a team decision. It doesn't matter if it's a brother, teammate or a friend," Sergei Kostitsyn said. "It's the coach's decision who to put on the ice. For sure (Andrei) wants to play. Him and Rads, they want to play. It's playoffs; we're down 2-0."

Not only do the Coyotes think the Predators will be motivated, they also expect goalie Pekka Rinne to play better. Rinne has given up nine goals to Phoenix, as many as he allowed in five games against Detroit in the previous playoff series.

"He's a very good goaltender," Phoenix center Antoine Vermette said. "It's something unusual. You don't see that many goals usually against this guy. So yeah, our approach has been good. That being said, we're going to have to do it again.

"We're going to have to create scoring chances."

ON TV Today

• Rangers at Capitals, 4:30 p.m., NBCS (series tied 1-1)

• Coyotes at Predators, 6 p.m., CNBC (Coyotes lead series 2-0)

Contributing: The Associated Press, the (Nashville) Tennessean

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