They were considered potential difference-makers when they were brought to — or brought back to, in one case — the Nashville Predators.
Now, Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitisyn are definite disappointments.
The skillful forwards added to the sense of peril that precedes Game 3 of the Predators’ Western Conference semifinal series with actions that eliminated the possibility they could change the momentum. Franchise officials announced Tuesday morning that the pair would sit out Wednesday’s contest (8 p.m., Bridgestone Arena) for violation of team rules.
General manager David Poile informed the players of the suspension Tuesday morning. Both then took part in the day’s practice and skated as a unit with tough guy Brian McGrattan, who has played just one game since mid-January.
“They did what they [had] to do,” Radulov said. “I’m good with that. I’m disappointed and understand what is my mistake. I really hope that everything is going to work out for our team better and if I get a chance to play again, maybe in the future, I’ll do what it will take to help the team to win and basically that is it.”
There was no definitive word on whether or not either automatically is available for Friday’s Game 4 or if there is more they must do to atone.
As of now, Nashville is down two games to none to the Phoenix Coyotes. It faces the possibility of losing the first three games of a playoff series for the first time in franchise history without two of its top offensive performers.
Radulov has a team-high six points (one goal, five assists) and Kostitsyn is tied for the team lead with three goals, including one in each game of the current series, this postseason.
“It is very disappointing,” Poile said. “Anytime something like this happens, it’s disappointing. In the playoffs, it is even more so, to take out two of your better hockey players.
“[But] it was a pretty easy decision. … We’ve done the right thing by putting the team ahead of a couple of individual players. We will see where we go from here.”
Character questions have followed Radulov ever since he walked away from the Predators four years ago — while still under contract — to play in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. Teammates and opponents alike have, at times, perceived him as a selfish player and a showboat.
Yet there never has been a doubt about his ability to produce offense. He had three goals and four assists in the final nine games of the regular season, after he finally returned to satisfy the remaining year on his NHL deal.
Likewise, Kostitsyn occasionally was criticized for his effort during his seven years with Montreal, which included 379 games. He has scored as many as 26 goals and notched as many as 53 points in an NHL season.
Nashville gave up a pair of 2013 draft picks to get him at this year’s NHL trade deadline.
“This team is not a perfect team,” Poile said. “This family is not a perfect family. You have to support your family at different times, and sometimes your child has to sit in the corner for a time out because it’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t mean that we love our children any less, or we like these players any less.
“We are disappointed in their behavior and we hope that what we are doing is the right thing for our organization and all the other team members. And we hope, going forward, that something like this would never happen again, especially at such an important time.”
Already, though, franchise leaders made clear they would do it again.
“There are certain things in sport or anything where you’ve got to have some rules and when they’re broken you’ve got to have some consequences,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Rules were broken so there were consequences.
“… The whole thing is that the Nashville Predators are about a team, the Nashville Predators are about accountability, the Nashville Predators are a team that you expect certain behaviors and certain rules to be followed, and they weren’t so there are consequences, plain and simple.”