It's official: Radulov, Kostitsyn are out

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It’s rare you change a winning lineup in the playoffs unless forced by injury.

And for the Nashville Predators, that means no Alexander Radulov or Andrei Kostitsyn again Friday night in Game 4 against the Phoenix Coyotes.

"The decision for me was pretty simple: The group that went in there was very committed and got the job done, plain and simple," Predators coach Barry Trotz said Friday morning. "Alex and Andrei are good players, they’re top players. At the same time, I felt the group responded really well, and I expect the group to respond again."

Neither player is suspended further, Trotz added. This is now simply a hockey decision.

My guess is, if the power play continues to struggle -- the Preds have only five goals on 34 chances this postseason -- it opens the window win or lose for Trotz to at least reinsert Radulov for Game 5 Monday night in Phoenix. But that’s just a guess at this point.

"They’re ready, obviously they want to be in," Trotz said of his two curfew breakers. "They want to have some vindication if you will. But at the same time, they’re good about being good pros. ... As long as we’re winning, they’re OK. If someone doesn’t play well or if we have an injury, they’re ready to go."

Trotz said he was going with the same lineup as Game 3. And with that, the Preds coach said he was done talking about the Radulov-Kostitsyn affair. At least for Friday.

"Can we talk more about hockey? That’s the last question I’m answering about those two," Trotz said.

Both the Predators and Coyotes had optional skates with several regulars missing, although Radulov and Kostitsyn took part.

Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett said he was leaning toward the same lineup as Game 3, although he wasn’t 100 percent sure yet.

"We’ll look at all the options, I won’t rule out a change possibly, but right now it looks like the same lineup," Tippett said.

On the Nashville side, the one concern after Game 3 was the health of winger Matt Halischuk after he left the game for a while following a scary collision into the boards. But he returned to finish the game and also skated Thursday and Friday morning.

"Yeah, I feel good to go, ready to go if I get the call tonight," Halischuk said after the morning skate.

He went to the "quiet room" after that collision in Game 3.

"It’s never a good situation when you’re flying like that, out of control, into the boards,” he said. "I was kind of winded. Took a second to get everything back together.’’