With a 1-0 loss in Game 4 to put the Predators down three games to one, the Predators now find themselves in a tough situation. Disagree or not with the decision to sit the two forwards in Game 3, it was a matter of values and integrity. Game 4, on the other hand was a message that Radulov and Kostitsyn were not wanted nor needed.
Of course, the offensively challenged loss on Friday was proof that their two top point scorers are in fact needed.
In a recent article on NHL.com, Predators' Head Coach Barry Trotz had the following to say on the situation:
I think there's a high probability that they'll both go in. I think they're motivated. There's some guys, as I said, that didn't bring their best games and therefore I think there would be a couple of changes."
On the one hand, if the two were to remain out of the lineup, David Poile would be discrediting himself, as it was his decision to trade for Kostitsyn and allow Radulov to return in the first place. In addition, if the Preds lost the game and the series, he would face scrutiny for keeping the two most offensive players off the roster when they were clearly needed.
On the other hand, the insertion of Kostitsyn and Radulov back into the lineup could be harmful to the team as well. The NHL has had its fair share of players like Kostitsyn and Radulov—players who put themselves first, don't buy into the team concept or make sacrifices (see Alexei Kovalev, Alexander Semin, Dany Heatley etc.).
These players don't play well with others, especially when it's been made public that they aren't wanted. The attitude they bring to Game 5 could be toxic in the locker room, affecting everyone else's focus in the process.
In addition, regardless of who the players are, it's never good for team chemistry to continually mix up the roster. It would have been hard enough to bring these players in near the end of the season (Kostitsyn at the trade deadline and Radulov with nine games remaining), let alone pulling them in and out of the the lineup during the playoffs.
As it appears that both players will return to the action for game five on Monday, it will be interesting to see how the team reacts to the players back into the lineup, as well as the extent that Radulov and Kostitsyn will be played. Don't be surprised if the two stars are a non-factor, if not detrimental to the team, resulting in a loss and a series win for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Follow Riley Kufta on Twitter for more articles and news around the NHL.
Riley Kufta's latest work: