For the Predators, the return of Alexander Radulov
is going swimmingly so far. The 25-year-old is stepping back into the Predators lineup tonight for the first time in almost four years, opting to play at his first opportunity despite a hectic few days that saw him fly from Russia and face a media swarm.
"I really left it up to him," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said about the decision to insert Radulov into the lineup in Pittsburgh. "It wasn't going to be my call. He's had a tremendous amount of things to do in the last four days. He's eight time zones away from where he was. How he's functioning, I have no idea."
Radulov has been all smiles, joking around with teammates and staff on the road trip. Even as early as Tuesday, Trotz has been buoyed by the positive effect that Radulov has had on team captain Shea Weber
, alternate captain Ryan Suter
"To me, that’s the most exciting thing," Trotz said Tuesday, "that he’s brought excitement to that core group, which is very good and that just hopefully makes us better."
Meanwhile, for Thursday night's game, Steve Sullivan, who was once a teammate of Radulov's in Nashville, praised the Russian scorer in a video interview shown on the video board inside Consol Energy Center. Sullivan reported that Radulov is a very skilled offensive player who is a particularly dangerous one-on-one threat.
Between the media publicity and Sullivan's knowledge of Radulov, there's no chance of the young Russian surprising the Penguins.Pittsburgh ties:
There's more to this road trip to Pittsburgh than the marquee matchup on the ice. The Nashville Predators have seen a lot of familiar faces in Consol Energy Center Thursday, as the two teams have quite a few ties. The Penguins' sixth-leading scorer is forward Steve Sullivan, who spent five-and-a-third seasons in a Predators uniform. Predators defenseman Hal Gill
, meanwhile, won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009. Penguins general manager Ray Shero came to Pittsburgh from Nashville, where he was the Predators' assistant GM from 1998 to 2006. And next door to the Consol Energy Center is what's left of Civic Arena (currently being demolished), which according to Predators TV play-by-play man and hockey historian Pete Weber was the site of the first NHL goal for his broadcast partner, Terry Crisp, on Oct. 17, 1967.Russian connection: Alexander Radulov
was the subject of much media hubbub again today, given his return to game action with the Predators, but he was able to break away from the sizable media scrum to chat one-on-one with friend and fellow countryman Evgeni Malkin. According to Radulov, the two are close.
"He's a good friend of mine because we are the same age and we were playing against each other as kids," Radulov said. "So I've known him a long long time. We've got a good relationship. While he was playing here and I was playing there we just call each other sometimes. In the summer I saw him a lot.