Preds look forward to Radulov's return

Alexander Radulov is expected to arrive in Nashville Tuesday evening and could skate with the...

Alexander Radulov is expected to arrive in Nashville Tuesday evening and could skate with the Predators as early as Wednesday. (Reuters)

Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:02 PM ET

Alexander Radulov is expected to make a good team even better upon his arrival in Nashville.

The Nashville Predators will be adding the skilled Russian to their lineup shortly as he’s decided to return to the NHL following the conclusion of his KHL season with Salavat Yulayev Ufa.

Radulov was expected in Nashville Tuesday evening and could be on the ice skating with the Predators as early as Wednesday.

“I’ve been told that he’s probably on a plane and hopefully he’s coming here,” smiled Predators head coach Barry Trotz, prior to Tuesday’s encounter against the Edmonton Oilers. “If he’s here, then we’ll fit him in the lineup. The great thing is that there’s seven or eight guys still here that know him, so it’s going to be an easier transition for him than perhaps it was for (Paul) Gaustad or (Hal) Gill that didn’t know anybody when they got here.

“Can he help us? Yes he can, he’s a dynamic player. He’ll have to transition over here as quick as possible.”

Radulov, 25, was selected by the Predators in the first round — 15th overall — of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

He played a pair of seasons with the Predators before leaving the club in the summer of 2008 and signing a contract with his current team in Russia.

Because Radulov had still been under contract with the Predators when he left, he’s been allowed to return to Nashville this season and join them for the stretch drive and the playoffs.

On Tuesday Radulov posted to twitter a picture of himself sitting on a plane stating he was heading to New York, then Nashville.

“Apparently he’s on his way. He’ll be a nice addition for us. We’re all excited about it,” said Predators centre Mike Fisher. “It’s going to help us. We’re excited that he’s coming back. We all know the type of player he is and what he can bring. Who wouldn’t want a guy that’s skilled like that, especially at this time of year?”

Currently in a second-place tie with the Detroit Red Wings in the Central Division standings, the Predators are hoping Radulov is the final piece in what they hope to be a long playoff run.

“It’s great to know that he’s coming back,” said Predators captain Shea Weber. “When he gets here, we’ll welcome him back.

“He’s been here before, everyone in the organization that was here back then, knows him, knows what kind of a skilled player he is. He’s excited to be coming back and he wants a chance to win the Stanley Cup.”

Weber has kept in contract with Radulov and talked to him a few days ago when a return to the NHL became a probability.

Radulov scored 26 goals and had 32 assists for 58 points in his final season with the Predators before returning to Russia.

He’ll come back to the Predators as the KHL’s all-time leading scorer with 91 goals and 163 assists in 210 regular-season games.

“He was still young and full of energy when he was here, and obviously it’s going to be weird now that he’s been gone for a few years,” said Weber. “Obviously he couldn’t have changed that much, he’s probably only gotten better and improved as a player.

“He can score goals, he’s got a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He’s very dynamic and can do great things with the puck.”

Radulov’s return to Nashville has upset a number of NHL general managers, particularly those in the Central Division, who felt he should be subject to waivers coming over from Russia during the season.

However, because Radulov still had a year left in his contract with the Predators when he left and was technically suspended by the club, the NHL ruled he was allowed to return to Nashville and join the team for the stretch drive.

“One thing about Rad is that he knows a lot about the NHL,” said Trotz. “It’s amazing how informed he is about the history of the NHL. You could talk about a player from the ‘60s and Rad knows him and he’ll probably know his stats, too. He’s really sharp that way and he will adjust. He’s a good player, he has a high skill level and he will compete. We know him, which is also a good thing.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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