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Radulov back in fold as Preds drop in on Penguins

by Mike G. Morreale
PREDATORS (42-23-8) at PENGUINS (45-21-6)


Last 10:
Nashville 5-4-1; Pittsburgh 9-0-1

Season series:
This is the only meeting of the season between the teams. Nashville has won two of the last three meetings. The Penguins scored a 4-3 overtime decision in Nashville last year when Kris Letang connected on a slap shot with 1:11 remaining in the extra period. Sidney Crosby had 2 goals and Evgeni Malkin 1 goal and 1 assist in the triumph.

Big story: The return of Alexander Radulov to Nashville's lineup is imminent. The Russian forward, who left the team in 2008 to play in the KHL, boarded a plane to New York and then Nashville on Tuesday. He appeared at a Wednesday news conference with general manager David Poile and will travel with the team to Pittsburgh, where he and coach Barry Trotz will decide if he plays Thursday or waits until Saturday's home game against Winnipeg.

Radulov still has one year remaining on his entry-level NHL deal. By playing for the Predators this season he will burn the final year of that commitment and become a restricted free agent July 1. Radulov had 25 goals and 63 points in 50 games this season for Ufa Salavat Yulayev.

"From what I experienced, the kid wants to win. He loves winning," Predators forward Jordin Tootoo told the media. "That's part of his DNA, and I think when you have that excitement, other guys feed off of it. He brings a lot of energy. Sometimes that's what we need. The past is the past, and we're definitely excited to add a piece to the puzzle."

Team Scope:

Predators: Edmonton chased Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne with three goals on seven shots on Tuesday in Nashville. The third came 28 seconds into the second period when Ales Hemsky scored his second of 3 goals in the Oilers' 6-3 victory. It marked the sixth time this season that Rinne was pulled and the second time he was pulled against the Oilers at home. Anders Lindback replaced Rinne with Nashville down 3-1 and finished with 10 saves on 12 shots. Nashville went 1-3-0 against Edmonton this season. With nine regular-season games remaining, the Predators sit fourth in the Western Conference with 42 wins and 92 points.

Crosby dished out 4 assists in his first home game in over three months, Malkin scored twice and James Neal notched the second hat trick of his career as the Pens scored an 8-4 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. The victory enabled the Penguins to rebound from an overtime loss to the Flyers on Sunday that snapped their 11-game winning streak, and pulled the club within one point of the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers. The Penguins have won eight straight home games, the longest active streak in the League.

Who's hot: Malkin, who leads the NHL with 93 points, has 5 goals and 12 points during a five-game point streak. He leads Philadelphia's Claude Giroux and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos by 9 points in the scoring race, despite missing seven games earlier this season with a knee injury.

Injury report: The Penguins are without backup goalie Brent Johnson (undisclosed) and forward Joe Vitale is sidelined with a shoulder injury. … Nashville defenseman Roman Josi (upper body) and forwards Paul Gaustad (upper body) and Colin Wilson (groin) are day-to-day.

Stat pack: In his last season in the NHL in 2007-08, Radulov notched 26 goals and 58 points. He scored 44 goals in two seasons with the Predators before leaving for Russia.

Puck drop: Crosby has 9 assists and a plus-7 rating in four games since his return from concussion-like symptoms on March 15. The Penguins are 3-0-1 since the captain has been re-inserted back into the lineup.

"There are still areas where I need to get sharper," Crosby told reporters. "But everyone is playing so well … makes it easier for anyone coming back."

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