Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 5/1/12
NASHVILLE, Tenn. We've all seen what happens in pro sports when the inmates are allowed to run the asylum. One of the most glaring recent examples is that of the 2011 Boston Red Sox. After a historic collapse that kept them from making the playoffs, it was revealed that numerous pitchers would sit in the clubhouse during games, drinking beer, eating fried chicken and playing video games. There is a story that has made the rounds in Atlanta about former Falcons coach Jim Mora now the coach at UCLA who jumped off a bus loaded with players that was headed for a team-building exercise to ride in a sports car with noted loose cannon DeAngelo Hall. After a first season in which he led the Falcons to the NFC Championship Game, Mora's teams never again finished above .500. With preferential treatment can come dissolution of the team concept and, as a result, disintegration on the playing field, or, in this case, the ice. On Tuesday, the Nashville Predators suspended their two leading postseason scorers, forwards Alex Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn, for Wednesday's Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series at Bridgestone Arena for a violation of team rules. The Preds trail Phoenix 2-0 in the series, but the secret to the longevity of general manager David Poile and coach Barry Trotz the only two men to hold those posts since the organization began playing in the NHL in 1998 is holding true to team concepts and doing what they believe is right. "There's certain things in sport or anything, you've got to have some rules. And when they're broken, you have to have some consequences," Trotz said. ". . . When you answer the whole question, whether it's playoff time or whatever, you've got to do what's right. The whole thing is the Nashville Predators are about a team. The Nashville Predators are about accountability. The Nashville Predators are a team that you expect certain rules to be followed and they weren't, so there's consequences. Plain and simple." The Predators acquired Andrei Kostitsyn at the trade deadline to provide more offensive firepower. He has done that, tying for the team lead with three goals in the playoffs. The larger questions about him were off the ice. He and his brother Sergei, who has played on Nashville's top line for a season and a half, ran into trouble off the ice when they played together in Montreal. The gambit was that Andrei, coming off a reduced role with the Canadiens, would flourish after being reunited with his brother while being given an enhanced role in Nashville. Thus far, it has mostly worked. Now, it remains to be seen how the team reacts and how he and Radulov react to their suspension. For years, the Preds had worked to lure back Radulov, their first-round pick in 2004 who broke his contract and went to play for four seasons in his native Russia and became the KHL's two-time MVP. Finally, in March, the Preds accomplished their mission and he rejoined the team. Since doing so, he has said the right things. That was the case again Tuesday, as he sounded mostly contrite. "I'm disappointed and I understand what was my mistake," he said. "I really hope that everything's going to work out for the team better. If I get a chance to play again in the future, I'll help the team to win. That's about it." There are no guarantees that Kostitsyn and Radulov will work their way back into the lineup for Game 4 on Friday. "We'll just see how Game 3 goes," Trotz said. "Right now, they're out for the one game." Here's a guess that the move will have a galvanizing effect. Before practice on Tuesday before the news was announced Trotz called out to a lone reporter as he headed for the ice and said, "I'm still standing above water." He seemed relieved and unworried about possible effects on chemistry. And with good reason. That is because the players who are likely to take the spots of Radulov and Kostitsyn in the lineup have been with the team all season: Matt Halischuk, rookie Craig Smith and fan-favorite Jordin Tootoo each played more than 70 games. They were with the Preds during their best run this season, as they went 13-2 from Dec. 28 through the end of January. "We've got a great group in here, and we've got some guys who have been champing at the bit, waiting to get in the lineup," captain Shea Weber said, "and I'm sure they're excited to get in." Those players represent the Preds' two-way brand of hockey that is at the soul of their identity. "Let's get back to Predator hockey," Trotz said. "Plain and simple. Let's get back to our identity. Let's play with a team game. Let's be a little determined on the puck, be a little relentless taking care of business on both sides of the puck. Plain and simple. That's what we have to do." There's a great chance that's exactly what we'll see.
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