SK74 headed to KHL for Good?

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Well, we all saw this coming… even the most diehard SK74 fans. It began even more clear during the lockout, when Sergei Kostitsyn, everyone’s favorite Belorussian, made a name for himself with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk. At the time, it was inspiring to Preds fans watching the struggling talent shine so brightly amongst the KHL; so much so that we all hoped he would bring that momentum back with him when the lockout ended… He didn’t.

SK74 managed to score 27 points in 28 games with Avangard, but only 15 in 46 when the NHL season resumed. Ouch.
Sergei was a force to be reckoned with when he was picked up from the Montreal Canadiens before the 2010-11 season, scoring 23 goals and picking up 27 assists in that season alone. But after that season, everything seemed to fall apart for the young Kostitsyn, with the 2011-12 season producing a lesser, but still good, 17 goals and 26 assists. This past season? An embarrassing three goals and twelve assists. Ouch again.

During the 2011-12 season, the Preds tried to bolster SK74’s momentum by bringing his older brother, Andrei on board, picking him up before the trade deadline from Montreal. Unfortunately, the plan backfired and trouble between the Kostitsyn brothers and Alexander Radulov resulted in Andrei and Radulov’s dismissal from the team. Understandably, that left a bad taste in Sergei’s mouth.

And again, when he went to the KHL during the lockout this past season, it was another sign that SK74 felt more comfortable amongst more common fellows. It couldn’t have been more clear as to how truly comfortable he was with Avangard and, for the Predators, that wasn’t a good sign for the future of SK74 with Nashville.

The GM of Avangard Omsk offered Sergei Kostitsyn a contract this past week, wishing him to return to the Alexander Frolov and Dmitry Semin line that worked so well together. Apparently, by the stats, it worked 10 times better than the SK74-Fisher-Erat line. Preds GM David Poile has been quoted has saying he would have “no objection” for allowing SK74 to return to the KHL.

The question in the coming day is, will David Poile risk one of two Compliance Buyouts to keep the struggling Belarussian or will he let Sergei go after this year? Also, there is the possibility that SK74 pulls an Alexander Radulov and runs off before his contract ends.

The truly sad thing is, even though he is given a lot of grief for his terrible performances and his huge mistakes (A.K.A. the infamous “quit” moment), Sergei Kostitsyn has a ton of talent that, for some reason or another, cannot be displayed. And that goes for any NHL team, not just the Predators. He struggled with behavioral and accountability issues while with Montreal and he would do it again with any other NHL team that gave him a chance.

Could it be he is more like Radulov in the sense that, in the KHL, rules are different and life is a little bit less strict for a player? I believe it is a mixture of that and the comfort level he feels being back in a more familiar role, surrounded by people who all speak the same language and there really isn’t a barrier for him to get stuck behind. Unlike his fellow non-American teammates, like Pekka Rinne and Patric Hornqvist, SK74 has not clung to English very well and is not comfortable with ten mics thrown in his face. However, interviews seem to come naturally to him when they are in Belarussian or Russian, two languages he is comfortable relaying information in.

You can’t hate the kid for wanting to return to something familiar and somewhere he excels. He’s given the NHL his best shot and, unfortunately for the few SK74 fans other there, it wasn’t his best. As long as he doesn’t jump ship like Radulov, we won’t turn our backs on SK. We’d like him give it all he’s got this last season because, even if Nashville offers him an extension, I believe this is our last season with Sergei Kostitsyn in the Predators gold.

Preds aquire Filip Forsberg from WSH for Erat & Latta

 

Image Source: Thescore.com

Image Source: Thescore.com

Wowza. What an unexpected surprise for Nashville, wouldn’t you say? Though I would’ve loved to rush to the blog to get this story out sooner, my employer wouldn’t have appreciated me cussing under my breath at my phone as I fought to get WordPress to work on my phone.

Though you know the story by now, the Predators made a surprise move on the last day of the Trade Deadline in the form of trading both Martin Erat and Mike Latta to the Washington Capitals for a forward by the name of Filip Forsberg. *I beg your pardon? We traded Erat and Latté for who?* Well, we hope that now that most of the story and facts have trickled out, we can get you the full blown information here. Let’s take a look at what Mr. Poile did today and was it worth the loss of a veteran like Erat?

Well, from what we gather in a nutshell: Yes, yes it was.
Filip Forsberg was selected 11th overall by the Capitals in the 2012 Draft, the third Forward to be drafted. Let us also mention that the young Forsberg, born on August 13, 1994 (I feel old), has no relation to Peter Forsberg who played for Nashville for a brief time in 2006. The 18-year-old is not currently with the Capitals, though; he isn’t even floating around their Farm Team. Honestly, he isn’t even in North America at all. No, Forsberg is currently in Sweden (where he hails), filling a roster spot with Leksands IF of the Swedish Elite League. With 15 goals and 18 assists in just 38 games, Forsberg looks like the offensive powerhouse that Nashville has longed to acquire (Hey, Radulov…).

Though he hasn’t proven himself in the NHL yet, it was a risk Poile and Co. were willing to take in order to take Nashville to a Stanley Cup. The young Swede has already signed a 3-year entry level contract and is cleared to play in North America now, if he chooses. Though he has one game left in Sweden, it is not for certain if he will make the jump to the NHL this season or next, but believe us, he’ll be wearing the Predators gold soon. David Poile made the comment today that he does want to see him in the lineup soon.

So, if this prospect is so good, why did the Capitals let the 18-year-old go for a 31-year-old vet?
Truth is, Washington gave up on him. Okay, there was more than that, but that is the reason in a nutshell. He hasn’t seen a second of NHL ice time and risking him for a veteran like Martin Erat wasn’t a tough decision for Washington. Plus, they acquire Michael Latta with the trade, who has been a standout for the Milwaukee Admirals as of late. Though Latta will probably hit Washington’s FT, Erat will join alongside Alexander Ovechkin and former Predator, Joel Ward.

More news trickled out as the trade announcement had been made; one that shook Predators fans to the core. Per David Poile in his press conference to the media, Martin Erat had expressed his interest in being traded. Still sore from the Ryan Suter debacle, fans were not ready to hear that Marty Erat, who has been with the team for twelve years, spoke with Poile two weeks before the Trade Deadline about waiving his ‘no-movement clause’ and search for greener pastures. It was clear Erat was no longer happy here in Nashville, which is a shame, but Nashville was “moving on with a younger team” and he doesn’t “have 6- to 7 years to wait for it [Stanley Cup] to happen”.

You can’t hate the guy for being unhappy and for being honest. Poile expressed his displeasure that the Predators and Martin Erat had to come to an end in a negative way, but I wouldn’t say Erat is leaving in a negative light. He expressed his displeasure and Poile honored his request, nothing more, nothing less.

We wish Marty all the luck in the world with Washington and hope he finds a better fit with Ovie and Wardo. It’s hard to see a leader and veteran like Erat wish to leave and, as a fan, it makes you wonder what went wrong. Why was he so unhappy here? Well, everyone has their own opinion as to why Erat may have been unhappy – as do we – but from his own mouth, he and Nashville were no longer on the same page. His lack of performance this season proved his displeasure here, and that you cannot dispute.

As for Mike Latta, we were looking forward to the feisty enforcer in Nashville, but alas, that ship as sailed to the Hershey Bears (Washington’s FT). He was drafted in the 3rd Round of the 2008 NHL Draft (72nd overall) and has made a name for himself while with Milwaukee as a fan favorite.

Ecstatic, isn't he?

Ecstatic, isn’t he?

From fellow teammate and Preds prospect, Magnus Hellberg

From fellow teammate and Preds prospect, Magnus Hellberg

 

To gain is to lose, and in order to aquire the future of the Nashville Predators organization, we had to let go of the past; a part of the foundation that his held Nashville together for twelve long years. It is hard to see Erat go, but again, to gain is to lose. Once Filip Forsberg has joined the Predators, fans will see that David Poile made the right move to push the future of the Nashville Predators towards the ultimate goal: the Stanley Cup.

We wish you well, Martin Erat.


We wish you well, Mike Latta.

Welcome to the greatest team in the league, Filip Forsberg.

 

 

 

 

Preds gain Momentum in Game 3, Fall Hard in Game 4

The Game Ops Department really stepped up for Round 2

After A. Kostitsyn and Radulov’s curfew incident, it would be up to the rest of the team to take the reins and prove to the NHL world that, even though some of their players aren’t taking the playoffs seriously, there are others who are willing to step up and earn their place on the ice. Lady Preds has had a busy weekend, so we apologize for not having Wednesday and Friday’s games up earlier, but we shall condense them both into one post for your viewing pleasure. Here are the highlights from Game 3 and Game 4 in Nashville.

GAME 3 – WEDNESDAY NIGHT:

  • For their first game at home for Round 2 against Phoenix, Nashville’s Game Ops department really stepped up to amp up the fans. With laser etchings of the Predators logos, a catfish, the players numbers and even signatures, it was hard not to be completely mesmerized. Here’s a video of it shot by a fan:
  • With AK46 and Rads suspended for the night, two hungry bench-warmers got the chance to prove themselves on the ice Wednesday night. Those two? None other than Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo. Although we wouldn’t deem Hali a bench-warmer, he has been sitting out a few games due to an ailing injury. Tootoo, on the other hand, has been warming the bench during the playoffs, so proving his worth and not losing focus was key for the enforcer. Also getting another shot on the ice was Mr. Controversy himself, Colin Wilson. Brian McGrattan, Craig Smith, Jack Hillen and Ryan Ellis topped out the scratched list.
  • David Legwand took advantage of a scoring opportunity at 8:10 in the 1st, notching his 3rd goal of the playoffs. Gabriel Bourque (2nd Assist) picked up the lone assist on Leggy’s wrister past Mike Smith.
  • Mike Fisher would counter Legwand’s goal at 9:16 of the 1st, grabbing his first goal of the playoffs thus far. Sergei Kostitsyn (1st Assist) and Martin Erat (3rd Assist) picked up the assists.
  • Nashville would hold the 2-0 lead over Phoenix in both the second and the third periods, giving the Predators their first playoff win in this series against the Coyotes. David Legwand tried pressing the Predators further with a second goal of his own, but the goal was inevitably ruled as an “intent to blow” call.
  • Nashville took control of the game defensively, with Pekka Rinne blocking all 32 shots on goal, his first shutout of the 2012 playoffs. The Predators gave the Coyotes four power play chances, but Nashville’s defense stepped up when needed and held Phoenix at bay to seal the win. Here are the four penalty offenders:
  1. Mike Fisher – 11:04 1st Period – Interference
  2. David Legwand – 15:39 1st Period – Hooking
  3. Sergei Kostitsyn – 12:59 3rd Period – Hooking
  4. Martin Erat – 14:18 3rd Period – Tripping
  • Interesting note: Although all four players took 2 minutes in the penalty box, each man collected a point in the game winner for the Preds.
  • The Predators proved that a snide incident involving two irresponsibly players would not phase them while fighting for the Stanley Cup. However, Nashville would have to come out with the same intensity on Friday to keep them from falling deeper into the hole…
GAME 4 – FRIDAY NIGHT:

  •  After a stellar performance on Wednesday night, it was obvious why Coach Barry Trotz did not put Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn back in the lineup. However, would Phoenix expect this out of Trotz and anticipate Nashville’s every move? From its outcome, it looks as if Nashville fell right into Phoenix’s trap, which was for the Predators to come out and play the exact same way on Wednesday.
  • After getting bruised and beaten on Wednesday, Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo took the place of AK46 and Radulov once again, with both players showing great determination on Wednesday. Colin Wilson also came out, once again, proving his puck-handling skills are worth the ice time. Jack Hillen, Brian McGrattan, Ryan Ellis, and Craig Smith continued on the scratched list.
  • Paul Gaustad and Kyle Chipchura dropped the gloves in the first period, with the announcers originally calling Gaustad as Kevin Klein. Here is the video of the two knuckle heads:
  • Rostislav Klesla wasted no time pummeling the Predators, sending already bruised and beaten Matt Halischuk violently into the boards. Klesla was only given a minor penalty of 2 minutes, but Brendan Shanahan ruled this afternoon that Klesla will be suspended for one game (Game 5) due to his unsportsmanlike hit. Luckily, Halischuk was not seriously injured. The video of the hit is below, but you can check out Shanahan’s take on the hit here.
  • Coyotes captain Shane Doan would scored shortly after Klesla’s hit on Halischuk at 14:52, his third goal of the playoffs.
  • At one point during the third period, Nashville was able to slip the puck past Mike Smith for a goal, but in true NHL referee fashion, the goal was waved off due to an “intention to blow” call. This is the second consecutive goal that has been waved off for Nashville due to this “unbelievable” call. Although completely overrun in the first period, the Predators pressured hard in the second and third periods, but were unable to slip past the Coyotes defense.
  • Nashville out-shot Phoenix by one (25 to 24), but even with all the potential chances the Predators were given, Nashville just wasn’t able to pull one out. It also did not help that Phoenix was out to weaken the Predators, pummeling them left and right into the boards.
  • Both Nashville and Phoenix had the same amount of power play chances at three, but neither team was able to capitalize on their advantage. Here are the three Predators offenders of the first period:
  1. Jordin Tootoo – 1:30 1st Period – Interference
  2. Paul Gaustad – 10:00 1st Period – Fighting
  3. Gabriel Bourque – 15:55 1st Period – Slashing

Although coming out with an intensity that can only be described as Predators hockey on Wednesday night, Nashville’s flame completely burned out on Friday, not what the Predators needed in order to contend for the Cup. It was clear Phoenix was completely and utterly prepared for Nashville to play the exact same way they did on Wednesday, which is one of the major flaws in the way Barry Trotz coaches. Now, don’t get us wrong, Trotz is an outstanding coach… in the regular season. However, teams anticipate opponents to fall to familiarity, and Nashville did just that on Friday night. They played it safe and kept the same lineups and plays as Wednesday, giving Phoenix the completely advantage. The one change that was noted was that SK74 was bumped from the star lineup and replaced with Colin Wilson. And, a question we ask, why wasn’t Paul Gaustad in the face-offs? With the highest winning percentage, why did he not get first choice in face-offs?

We could ask questions like these all day until our faces turn blue, but what ultimately matters now is that the Predators stitch themselves back up, change it up a bit, and come out swinging in Glendale tomorrow night. With the Stanley Cup on the line, if Nashville is as hunger as they think they are, tomorrow will not even be a factor.

Until then,
GO PREDS

Radulov saves Preds from Shutout; Penguins Win 5-1 over Predators

Alexander Radulov wastes no time getting back into a Preds sweater.

After a rough and embarrassing loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, the Predators took to the road once again, seeking a win in Pittsburgh against the newly-returned Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. Since Crosby’s return last Thursday, the Penguins have left a wake of destruction behind them, burying the Rangers, the Devils, and the Jets. The only team to escape unscathed was the Flyers, and even then it was an OT loss 3-2. Just looking at Pittsburgh’s past schedule (their last loss since Sunday was against Buffalo on February 19th), it is clear the Predators weren’t just going to walk in here and walk out with a win. Even with the return of Alexander Radulov, the Predators were going to have to make little to no mistakes against this Eastern Conference powerhouse in order to steal their ranking back from the Red Wings.
Here are the highlights from tonight’s game:

KEY POINTS:

  • Pittsburgh wasted no time letting their fans sing, as Evgeni Malkin sent a speeding slap shot passed Pekka Rinne to seal his 44th goal of the season at 1:23. Malkin is currently 2nd in goals in the league, sitting just a few goals behind Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
  • Pascal Dupuis sealed his 22nd goal of the season at 4:06, putting the Penguins up over the Predators early in the 1st 2-0.
  • Pittsburgh would continue to dominate the Predators into the 2nd, with Matt Cooke sending a wrist shot passed Pekka to land his 17th goal of the season at 1:58.
  • Putting the Penguins up 4-0, Chris Kunitz would hit a wrist shot of his own passed Nashville’s goalie to collect his 22nd goal of the season at 7:35.
  • Nashville would finally sink a goal passed Marc-Andre Fleury at 12:01 from Alexander Radulov. Good start since leaving the Predators and NHL four years ago, it was clear that Pittsburgh fans did not approve of Radulov’s return. Hall Gill (11th assist) and Patric Hornqvist (14th assist) picked up the assists on the newly-returned Russian’s goal.
  • Evgeni Malkin would remind Pittsburgh fans who the better of the two Russians were with his second goal of the night at 19:04, sending the Penguins up 5-1. Although his 45th goal of the season, Malkin still falls behind Stamkos in the standings. However, he did surpass Steven Stamkos in points. Many believe Malkin will be top contender for the Hart Memorial Trophy this year.
  • The Predators took plenty of shots on goal tonight, but their accuracy lacked the intensity that the Penguins were able to bestow upon Nashville defense and net. Nashville out-shot Pittsburgh 30 to 23, but again, accuracy was just not in the cards with the Predators tonight. Sergei Kostitsyn, Martin Erat, and Mike Fisher had prime goal chances, but the connection just wasn’t there. Alexander Radulov and Craig Smith also had some close goals, but in the end, it just wasn’t meant to be for the Predators.
  • Although having a rough night, Pekka Rinne was not pulled and replaced with Anders Lindback. As you recall, Pekka was pulled at the beginning of the 2nd Period on Tuesday night against Edmonton due to a chippy performance. Trotz let Peks play the 60 minutes, which may have actually been the best for him. Instead of being frustrated and discouraged from being pulled, a loss at which he had control of may cause him to snap back into his former self. Unfortunately, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has now surpassed Pekka as leader in wins… just by one point, though. Pekka still has a chance to overthrow the French-Canadian.
  • The Predators only gave the Penguins one penalty throughout the entire game with an interference call on Shea Weber at 19:01 in the 1st Period. The Predators were given two chances, but were unable to perform on either power play.

Most would say, “Oh well, at least the loss was to an Eastern Conference team.” However, with the playoffs inching closer by the minute and with teams like the Red Wings surpassing the Predators and Chicago on their coattails, the Predators have no room to be lazy and sluggish. Keep in mind, though, every team goes through rough patches and, unfortunately, the Predators happen to be bopping through theirs close to the playoffs. It’s easy to get discouraged and flustered about the Predators and their future in the playoffs (again, lackluster plays = couch time), but rough patches will and do happen.

Last but not least, congrats to Alexander Radulov and sealing his first goal of his NHL career since leaving for the KHL four years ago. Not only that, sinking that said goal in his first game back. Similar to Andrei Kostitsyn’s first goal as a Predator during his first game (also on the road), Radulov started off on the right foot tonight.

The Predators are on their way back to Nashville tonight, taking tomorrow off and then taking on another Eastern Conference foe, the Atlanta Thrash- err, Winnipeg Jets. And, just for good measure, the puck will drop at 6PM instead of the usual 7PM start time, easing the folks on EST (what about us with Pacific time?!). Don’t forget, the Predators will be having a public practice tomorrow at 11AM at Centennial Sportsplex.

Until then,
GO PREDS.

(Photo credit: Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Out-Shot but not Out-Played: Oilers Top the Predators 6-3

Even though it was Sergei Kostitsyn's birthday, the Oilers made no attempt to play nice.

The Predators returned home after a treacherous trip out West. Although the Predators were able to sneak away with two wins (first in Phoenix with a SO win and then against the Ducks in regulation), none of the games they played showed any confidence in the team and each game was played with a bit of a lackluster effort. But home games are always a confidence boost, right? Especially sweeping out the Ducks on Sunday.

Easy wins should never be assumed by a team like the Predators. Although the Edmonton Oilers are currently sitting in 14th in the league (yes, that means they are the second to last) and are dead last in the Northwest Division, the Oilers aren’t a team to just cast aside. In fact, in the last three games the Predators played against the Oilers, they only won one on November 28th in Edmonton 2-1. Otherwise, Edmonton, although clearly the weaker of the two teams, has embarrassed the Predators on both home and away ice.

Either the Predators were suffering from jet lag (which was still hanging around since heading to the West) or they were suffering from Rads-is-on-his-way syndrome. Either way, the Oilers brought their A-Game and the Predators did not. Here are the highlights from last night’s game in Music City:

KEY POINTS:

  • Brian McGrattan, Roman Josi, and Jack Hillen sat out on the scratched list last night against the Oilers. Along with those three, Colin Wilson and Paul Gaustad rounded out the scratched bunch. Wilson is currently still on the fence with a “groin” injury, whereas Gaustad is quickly healing and could possibly be back for Thursday’s game in Pittsburgh.
  • Former Predator, Darcy Hordichuk got the ball rolling at 12:50 for the Oilers, scoring his first goal of the season past Pekka Rinne.
  • The Oilers quickly put themselves up 2-0 over the home team at 16:22 with a wrist shot from Ales Hemsky, his 7th goal of the season.
  • David Legwand would relieve Preds fans at 19:53 in the 1st with his 17th goal of the season past Devan Dubnyk. Leggy was assisted by Shea Weber (29th assist) and rookie Gabriel Bourque (10th assist).
  • Ales Hemsky would seal his 2nd goal of the night (8th of the season) 28 seconds into the 2nd, sending Pekka to the bench and bringing out Anders Lindback.
  • Edmonton would continue to attack, putting the Oilers up 4-1 at 5:51 with a power play goal from Ryan Jones (15th goal of the season).
  • Between this point and Nashville’s goal at 12:35, something happened. Something that sent both the team (the Predators) and the fans into an uproar. An apparent goal by Patric Hornqvist was waved off by the officials, even though it was clearly and quite obviously a goal. The fans clearly shared their feelings with the refs, and even the Oilers announcers were said to have said it was a terrible call.
  • The refs tried to make up the slip in judgement by giving the Predators a 5-on-3. Patric Hornqvist sealed a goal at 12:35 for his 24th goal of the season. Mike Fisher (23rd assist) and Martin Erat (39th assist) assisted on the power play goal.
  • The Oilers would end the 2nd Period with another goal from Ales Hemsky at 14:03, giving the Czech his first ever Hat Trick in the NHL.
  • David Legwand would seal his second goal of the night at 4:18 in the 3rd, his 18th goal of the season. Patric Hornqvist (13th assist) and Gabriel Bourque (11th assist) were back in the lineup with Leggy, assisting him on the goal.
  • Sam Gagner would seal any chance of the Predators returning to the game with an empty-netter at 18:19 for his 16th goal of the season.
  • Pekka Rinne has been looking a bit sluggish lately, and last night showed through his padding. Pekka was pulled early in the 2nd Period, right after Ales Hemsky sealed his second goal of the night. Anders played well, blocking 10 of 12 shots on net. Edmonton resembled the Predators in that they managed to still win, dispite only having 20 shots on goal. The Predators took an outstanding 41, but the accuracy of the shots failed against goalie, Devan Dubnyk.
  • The Predators only had two penalties compared to Edmonton’s five, but the Predators just couldn’t find a way to capitalize on them, minus one. Here are the two penalty boxers:
  1. Shea Weber – 4:09 2nd Period – Hi-Sticking
  2. Francis Bouillon – 14:28 3rd Period – Roughing

Sloppy plays equal a short time in the playoffs. The Predators have been struggling as of late and, with the playoffs inching ever so closer, now is not the time to slack-off. Lackluster plays and puck-handling mistakes lead to quick “couch” time, as we’d like to call it.

RADULOV UPDATE:
As expected, Alexander Radulov made it into Nashville late last night, stopping by the Bridgestone Arena to meet with General Manager David Poile, Head Coach Barry Trotz, and other members of the staff and team. Radulov practiced with the team this morning (Wednesday, March 21st) and is expected to make the trip to Pittsburgh with the team on Thursday. Whether or not he will hit the ice tomorrow is still in question, but he was placed on a line with Legwand and Hornqvist and is expected to play Saturday in Nashville against the Winnipeg Jets.

Alexander Radulov stated that he was happy to be back in Nashville and was ready to play tomorrow against Pittsburgh, but all decisions will be decided upon tomorrow. Here a picture from the press conference this morning:

Radulov shakes hands with Predators GM David Poile.

Again, one player (Radulov…cough) is not going to save the Predators from their sloppy mistakes. Yes, Radulov will help tremendously, but it may take a game or two before he gets into the swing of things back here in the NHL (Yes, there is a huge difference between the KHL and the NHL). The Predators are off to Pittsburgh for the night tomorrow to take on Steve Sullivan, Sidney Crosby, and the Penguins at 6PM. The Predators return to Nashville on Saturday to welcome the Winnipeg Jets at a special 6PM start time.

Until then,
GO PREDS.

(Photo credit: Kristen Jerkins Photography)

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,
GO PREDS.

(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