Barry Trotz has a choice to make.
The Nashville Predators coach said Wednesday that veteran left wing Steve Sullivan will miss Game 4 of his team’s Western Conference semifinal series with the Vancouver Canucks (7:30 p.m., Bridgestone Arena) because of a lower body injury sustained in Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime defeat.
Thus, Trotz must decide whether to play J-P Dumont or Colin Wilson. Or both.
“I have two forwards left and one will definitely be in because [Sullivan] is not in,” Trotz said. “And I have to look at the rest of our lineup.”
Dumont played the final two games of the Anaheim series when Martin Erat was injured. He had an assist in the series-clinching victory and was on the ice as the extra attacker when Shea Weber scored in the final minute of regulation and forced overtime in Game 5.
“Against Anaheim, when [I] got the call, I think [I] was ready to go,” Dumont said. “You never want to see one of your teammates go down, but at the same time I want to play. Hopefully I’m going to be in.”
Wilson, one of four Predators who played all 82 games of the regular season, has not appeared in a playoff game this year. Trotz said he considered Wilson for his Tuesday lineup but ultimately decided to stick with the same group he used in the first two games against Vancouver.
“[Wilson] is ready,” Trotz said. “… I feel he’s ready for the series now. … His play at the end of the year wasn’t where I expected it to be. He didn’t start the first series and no one allowed him to get into the first series because everyone played pretty well.
“…J-P has been a really good pro. He comes to work every day. He’s one of the best people you’ll meet on and off the ice. So he’ll definitely be in the mix.”
• On the line: The title of the number-one line for the Predators has been a temporary one for most of the season as various groups have taken turns producing points.
Currently, the trio of center Mike Fisher and wings Patric Hornqvist and Sergei Kostitsyn, who have filled the role for an extended period, are in danger of losing their claim to it.
“They haven’t been really solid in the neutral zone,” Trotz said. “Their neutral zone decisions haven’t been very good. And their support for each other, right now, is not where it needs to be. They’re spread out too far.”
None of the three has any points in the series. Kostitsyn, Nashville’s leading goal scorer during the regular season, has no goals on eight shots in the playoffs.
“Me, Fisher and Sergei — everybody has to take it to the net,” Hornqvist said. “We’re not playing very good right now. But we know what we’re going to do [Thursday]. Hopefully we can get some chances and come goals.
“We have to be a little harder in front of the net, a little more hungry and hopefully we’ll get one bounce and be right back in it.”
• Quote of note: “Last series when we left Nashville, it was 2-2 and we ended up winning the series. … The next game, to us, is the most important game. It’s about winning four games. It’s not about losing one game.” — Trotz, on the fact that Nashville trails in the series 2-1.
• Playing the game: A little more than 12 hours later, Trotz remained steadfast in his belief that the hooking penalty against Shea Weber in overtime Tuesday should not have been called.
He said Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler locked on to Weber’s stick to make it look like a hook. Forty seconds later, Kesler scored the game-winning goal.
Trotz was equally critical of a call against Jerred Smithson for high-sticking against Canucks’ goalie Roberto Luongo. He said Smithson simply moved his stick from one side to the other and that Luongo’s head snapped back well after the fact.
“There was contact made with my mask and I just turned my head,” Luongo said. “I didn’t throw myself on the floor or anything like that.”
Trotz was not convinced.
“That’s gamesmanship, and I understand that, but it’s also putting the referees in a tough spot,” Trotz said. “… If you’re going to make them look bad, I don’t think that’s needed in the game.”
• Briefly: Nashville has been held to fewer than three goals in three straight games. The only other time that happened in the playoffs was 2007 against San Jose. … Vancouver’s 47 shots Tuesday were the most by a Predators’ opponent in a playoff game since Detroit had 54 in an overtime contest, April 18, 2008 — also a 3-2 Nashville defeat. … Defense prospect Ryan Ellis was named the Red Tilson Trophy winner as the Ontario Hockey League’s most outstanding player of the year. Ellis (101 points in 58 games) is the fourth defenseman in the 67-year history of the award to win it.