Dusting off the 47 Sweater: Alexander Radulov returns to Nashville

Alexander Radulov during the 2006-07 season.

While non-hockey fans in Nashville are sobbing thanks to Peyton Manning’s decision to go to Denver, hockey fans in the Music City are celebrating the announcement that the 2004 NHL Draft 1st Round Pick will be returning to the Nashville Predators after almost four years. Radulov has spent the last 45 months playing in the Kontinental Hockey League, and it has been confirmed that his KHL club will allow him to return to Nashville and the National Hockey League.

Per Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile, Alex could be back in the Predators lineup by Thursday, when the Predators head to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins. That means Radulov could be on a plane as early as tomorrow. Tickets for Saturday’s game at home against the Winnipeg Jets skyrocketed when word of Radulov’s return was announced. Saturday’s game, if it isn’t already, is expected to be a sellout.

Alexander Radulov was, and will be for a very long time, the face of the Kontinental Hockey League. He’s accomplished a lot since bolting to his native Russia, including winning the KHL MVP award in 2010, becoming a KHL All-Star four times,  and winning a Gagarin Cup Championship in 2011.

It’s amazing how Alexander Radulov went from the most hated hockey player in Nashville’s history, to one who is embraced and welcomed back with open arms by the same fans who shunned him when he left. Of course, the Predators and its fan base have chanced dramatically in the four years that Radulov has been gone and players have come and gone. Jordin Tootoo, Kevin Klein, Martin Erat, David Legwand, Ryan Suter, and Shea Weber are the only players who have played alongside the Russian phenom, and luckily, all were friends of Alex whilst he was on the team, especially Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. The younger and newer players are excited to usher Radulov onto the team as well.

It will be most interesting to see how Coach Barry Trotz will find a good placement in the lineup for Radulov once he does return. The chances of Trotz tearing apart the irrepressible SK-Fisher-Erat line is out of the question, but then again, the chemistry amongst the team and where Radulov will fit seamlessly will have to involve switching the norm up a bit. Perhaps that is what practice is good for.

With Radulov returning in time for the playoffs, the rest of the Western Conference is beginning to feel the heat as Nashville, who is currently sitting in the 4th spot, inches closer to the top. The Predators are currently tied at 92 points with Philadelphia for the #5 spot in league standings and Alexander Radulov could push the Predators higher. Without Radulov, the Predators have made a decent name for themselves, with players like Pekka Rinne, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Mike Fisher, the addition of a sniper shooter such as Radulov will only help the team in the standings.

Not all is gumdrops and rainbows as of yet for the Predators, though. Rumors that Radulov may have to return to the KHL after his short stint in Nashville when the season ends have been running amongst the media, but until more of that information is available, most believe it will come down to Alex deciding over the summer of whether he will re-sign with the Predators or, if anything, return to Russia and continue his rein as King of the KHL.

Until Alexander Radulov’s skates hit the ice at either the Bridgestone Arena or on the road with the Predators, we won’t promise Radulov’s return is for certain nor permanent. However, Alexander Radulov will give the Predators a boost of encouragement both on and off the ice with his return, extending the team ever so closer to the Stanley Cup.

Until then,

(Photo credit:  Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images Sport)

UPDATE 3/20/12:
Per Alexander Radulov’s Twitter account, he is currently on a plane headed back to Nashville.

Follow Alexander on Twitter: @Radul22



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