NHL Playoffs 2012: Have Radulov and Kostitsyn Played Their Last Nashville Games?

John B MathesonCorrespondent IMay 2, 2012

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 03:  Andrei Kostitsyn #46 of the Nashville Predators skates against the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center on March 3, 2012 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The official stance being reported out of Nashville is that they had no idea two of their star players had been out most of the night before Game 2 against Phoenix.

After speaking with both players, Coach Barry Trotz decided to suspend Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov for Game 3. He has also said that if the Predators win, they will also sit for Game 4.

Could this suspension be the end for the duo, who were added to the team late in the season?

It's not the first time that players have missed curfew the night before a game. One of the more notable incidents was back in 1988, when Petr Klima and Bob Probert went drinking before Game 5 against the Oilers.

It ended in a similar fashion to Game 2 between Phoenix and Nashville. The only difference was when Detroit was soundly thumped 8-4 by Edmonton, they were sent home for the season.

The episode in 1988 was believed to have cost then-Coach Jacques Demers his job in Detroit, and this year's may do the same for Radulov and Kostitsyn with the Predators.

Its been rumoured that Kostitsyn was frequently out late in bars and clubs while with the Habs, so to hear of this behaviour from him in Nashville is not all that surprising.

Kostitsyn was picked up by the Predators at the trade deadline. He managed four goals and eight assists in 19 games at the end of the season. Like Radulov, he too is in the final year of his contract.

Radulov has played in the KHL (Kontinential Hockey League) for the last four seasons of his contract with the Predators. His return after his team in Russia finished its season marked Radulov finishing out the last year of his contract. He played nine games at the end of the season and had three goals and four assists.

The Predators played a gritty game for the majority of the season and were in playoff contention when they added the two scorers for some more offensive power heading into the postseason. This means that this team has the ability to win Game 3 and get themselves back into this series.

Their combined effort in the postseason has four goals and six assists, with Radulov leading the teams individual efforts at six points. Kostitsyn is tied for the most goals with rookie Gabriel Bourque at three.

It makes the decision that Trotz made a controversial one. Benching two of the players that are leading in points could prove disastrous for the team.

However, their selfish antics the night before Game 2 led to one of their worst showings in this playoff and Radulov getting blasted by the NBC coverage team. Pointing out a lack of hustle on the Russian's part throughout the second game in Phoenix.

Had the two played the style that has them a top of the Predators' stats, their missing curfew would be a non-issue. The entire team has played poorly in the second round. The blame does not rest squarely on these two.

Yet, with the knowledge that they needed to play their best hockey it was irresponsible of the two players to go out until the reported 4 in the morning.

The Predators will have to dig in and play as they did throughout most of the regular season, leaning more heavily on other players than they have been thus far in the postseason.

Even if Nashville can pull off victories in the absence of Kostitsyn and Radulov, do not expect to see the Predators front office rushing to re-sign these two.

Radulov was already doubtful for a contract extension, as it took some convincing by team captain Shea Weber for him to return to play the remainder of his contract. This excursion could well be the nail in the coffin for his tenure with the Predators.

Should Nashville lose, their season will likely end a few days later. Even if Kostitsyn and Radulov return to the line-up for Game 4, the Preds will be down 3-0. A deficit that few teams have been able to rally back from.

It will be another disappointing season for the Nashville Predators if they end up losing this series. A good portion of the blame will land on their shoulders by fans and front office alike. For all the Preds have done this season, it will be this event that sticks out in the minds of the fans.

At this point the only way that Kostitsyn and Radulov will return to the organization next season is with a Predators victory: not just in Game 3 but the series as a whole. That may allow them to redeem themselves to the fans, front office and teammates.

If not, these two will be the scapegoats of this series, meaning Radulov will probably return to the KHL while Andrei Kostitsyn will be looking for a new team.