The news that Barry Trotz is sticking to his Game Three lineup, leaving Alexander Radulov & Andrei Kostitsyn in the press box, has tongues wagging around the hockey world this afternoon. Especially since tonight's Predators/Coyotes Game Four is the only playoff game on the NHL schedule, analysts from around the league are chiming in on whether this is the right move for a Nashville team that needs to win tonight and take this series back to Phoenix tied 2-2. Locally, it appears that fans are hugely supportive, based on yesterday's poll and the talk on Twitter.
After the jump, I'll start with my take...
First off, I'll offer my own opinion here. With the de facto suspension over, Radulov & Kostitsyn are back in the mix, and it's time to put the best possible team on the ice tonight to win this critical game. Just because the Preds won Game 3 in the classic Predators' style doesn't mean there weren't candidates for replacement (or demotion) among the forwards in the lineup. I'll offer two right off the bat:
Brandon Yip - If Trotz is confident that Jordin Tootoo has his game together, he could play Toots over Yip in the 4th-line banger role, leaving Halischuk on the other side.
Sergei Kostitsyn - He's been unimpressive all playoff long (last year, too), with just one goal and one assist through 8 games. Yip has that much, and he gets half as much ice time as Sergei. A perfect example of the "they won so we can't change anything" mindset is the thinking that SK74 made a good play on Mike Fisher's goal the other night:
This is classic pass-first (and -second, and -third) thinking by Sergei, and he was fortunate that Fisher's centering pass deflected off Smith for a goal. The bottom line here is that he was handed a wide-open opportunity right between the faceoff circles, and he opted to pass the puck off to the side rather than try to score a goal.
In a tight series like this, you can't pass up scoring chances like that, even if the hockey gods bailed out your butt that time.
The lines I'd go with, just for discussion's sake:
Erat - Fisher - Radulov
Bourque - Legwand - Hornqvist
Wilson - Spaling - SK74
Tootoo - Gaustad - Halischuk
If you like, you could even switch up SK74 and Tootoo there.
And now... the afternoon hockey notes:
Nashville Predators News
Barry Trotz has to decided to scratch Radulov and Kostitsyn in Game 4, and that’s stupid | Backhand Shelf
Justin takes the big picture view, saying that loading too much meaning into the previous game's result can be extremely dangerous.
Brophy on Predators: Forgiving the inexcusable - sportsnet.ca
Mike Brophy argues that the Preds need to move forward and ice their best players, which includes Radulov & AK46.
In defense of Alexander Radulov | Shutdown Line
Don't pin the Preds' troubles on Rads.
Paul McCann - Game Four Game Night in Smashville!
Paul cautions you to make sure you're in your seats in time for the early (6:30) start tonight...
The 303:30 – The series thus far vs Phoenix and NBC Sports Network’s John Forslund | Section 303
It's your last chance to listen to a pre-fatherhood Codey Holland.
The Hippodrome: Life After The Scottsdale Surprise | Pith in the Wind
Take a lap around the 'Drome with Glen Campbell and Zac Brown.
Lastly, watch as Barry Trotz talks about the lineup decision with the media after today's morning skate:
Around the Wide Wide World of Hockey
WCSF: Phoenix Coyotes @ Nashville Predators Game 4 Preview - Matching the Intensity - Five For Howling
The Coyotes will look to put together a stronger effort than what they brought Wednesday.
Coyotes/Preds Goes Largely Unnoticed During Overtime Wednesday " Puck The Media
Game Three went up against Rangers/Capitals, and got trounced.
Oh good, it’s pile on Russian hockey players time again (Trending Topics) | Puck Daddy
It's like we've taken a trip back to 20 years ago, with all the talk going on.
Radulov, Kostitsyn and the NHL's dwindling Russian influence - The Globe and Mail
Since the turn of the millennium, the number of Russian NHL players in the playoffs has dropped by more than half, writes James Mirtle.
Ilya Kovalchuk’s big night an oasis amid criticism of Eastern players | Backhand Shelf
Kovy got the job done for New Jersey, though.
Battered Klesla plays on for Coyotes - NHL.com
Rusty Klesla is taking a physical toll for Phoenix but keeps coming back for more.
Goaltender Kryptonite - St. Louis Game Time
Some advice that might come in handy against Mike Smith.
2012 NHL Playoffs: Rangers Vs. Capitals - Is Marian Gaborik Back? Did He Ever Leave? - Blueshirt Banter
The Rangers are glad to see their high-paid sniper score a huge goal, like Thursday's triple-OT winner.
Bolland on Trading Block – Hawks Will Pursue Suter?? | Hockey Independent
Can you imagine if Chicago filled that $7.1 million salary cap hit formerly held by Brian Campbell with Ryan Suter? That would be a huge coup for them.
Is Jordan Staal on the trade block? - The Globe and Mail
If Pittsburgh decides to split up their trio of top centers, where might Staal go?
Top 11 Reasons I Want To See Game 5 Of Blues And Kings - St. Louis Game Time
Blues fans may have already seen their last home game this season.