It’s a cliché, but it’s also a coping mechanism.
When the Nashville Predators talk about taking it one game at a time it is because they don’t want to think about what they now face in their attempt to advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time.
“We have to take it one game at a time,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “If you look at the big picture it’s a lot of work. But if we take it one game at a time it’s doable.”
The Predators trail the Phoenix Coyotes 3-1 in the best-of-seven conference semifinal series, which continues Monday at Glendale, Ariz. (9 p.m., (NBC Sports Network). Thus they need to win all three remaining games in order to avoid elimination.
“Plain and simple, we’ve got to win a hockey game,” coach Barry Trotz said. “The focus can’t go any farther than that — winning a hockey game. And it’s going to have to be in Phoenix.”
Nashville lost the first two games of the series at Jobing.com Arena, 4-3 and 5-3. It was just the third time in franchise history (the last time was 2010 against Chicago) that it allowed four or more goals in consecutive playoff games.
The Predators won both regular season games there by a combined score of 8-4.
“Everybody knows what the situation is over here,” goalie Pekka Rinne said. “But I think you just focus on one game at a time. Stay positive. We’ve won three games in a row before.
“It starts in Phoenix on Monday. If we want to keep playing we have to win, and that’s the bottom line.”
Nashville has trailed 3-1 in a playoff series three times previously and never strung together the necessary streak. Twice (against San Jose in 2006 and 2007) it was eliminated in Game 5. Last season, the conference semifinals against Vancouver, it won on the road in Game 5 before it was eliminated in the next contest.
Montreal was the last NHL team to overcome a 3-1 deficit. It did so in the opening round in 2010 against Washington, and two of its last three victories were on the road.
“I know when you’re down in a series 3-0 the numbers don’t look good,” Trotz said. “At 3-1, a number of teams have come back. The numbers are much better than 3-0.
“Our focus has to be on winning a hockey game and not look past that.”
• Back to work: Trotz said he expects to return forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn to the lineup for Monday’s contest.
The pair was suspended for Game 3 for disciplinary reasons. The two then were held out of Game 4 as Trotz stuck with the lineup that produced the Predators’ only victory in this series.
“I think there is a high probability that [Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn] will both go in,” Trotz said. “I think they are motivated. There are some guys who I thought didn’t bring their best games; therefore, I think there will be a couple changes.”
Even having missed the two games, Radluov is still Nashville’s leading playoff scorer with six points (one goal, five assists) and Kostitsyn remains tied for the team lead in goals.
• Bad boy: Phoenix defenseman Rostislav Klesla has been suspended for one game for a hit on Nashville forward Matt Halischuk during Friday’s game.
Klesla was assessed a minor penalty for boarding on the play, which occurred at 6:39 of the first period. Halischuk went to the training room for treatment but returned to the contest.
Klesla will miss Monday’s contest.
• Briefly: Patric Hornqvist has four points (one goal three assists) in nine playoff games this season. That’s as many as he had in 14 career playoff games (two goals, two assists) prior to this year. … David Legwand has a team-high 10 penalty minutes, which also is a career-high. Four times in Nashville’s six all-time playoff appearances he finished with eight penalty minutes. … Hal Gill has yet to register a point this postseason and has gone 18 straight playoff games since his last, an assist on April 28, 2010.