Sergei Kostitsyn tries to turn his career around with the Nashville Predators

subbancomfortssergkostitsyn.jpgOne of the lessons people can take away from professional sports such as hockey is that raw skill alone doesn’t make someone successful. The game’s greatest players are often highly driven, courageous, hard-working and consistent.

If all that mattered was his blinding speed and impressive puck skills, Sergei Kostitsyn would at least be a useful NHL player (if not a star). Unfortunately, things didn’t work out in Montreal, as scandal and coach Jacques Martin’s distaste tainted the younger Kostitsyn brother’s years with the Canadiens.

His former OHL teammate Patrick Kane is surprised that things haven’t worked out for the talented Belarussian, according to a story in the Tennessean.

“There were a lot of times I remember coming off the ice, there would always be something Sergei would say or do during the game,” Kane said. “I remember telling my parents and they would laugh about it for about 15 minutes.”

This is the side of Kostitsyn that has not been heard over the past three years, the one that took the OHL by storm in 2006-07 when he was one of the best players on a team that featured Kane and fellow first-round draft pick Sam Gagner. Instead, after he joined the Montreal Canadiens in 2007-08, the news about Kostitsyn mostly involved suspensions and benchings.

“It is kind of mind-boggling to me,” Kane said. “I know what a great player he is and what a great talent he can be, and I thought back in the OHL he was probably the best player in our league at the time.”

Rather than going for bigger bucks (and the comforts of being closer to home/perhaps playing in a less structured league), Sergei Kostitsyn opted for a cheap one year deal with the Nashville Predators. You can look at the situation in at least two ways. Optimists will predict that Kostitsyn will be a lot like Maxim Afinogenov in Atlanta; a wayward player who produced nice offense on a frugal deal. (Although, yes, Afinogenov failed to get another NHL deal so it’s not all roses in that scenario.) Naysayers will point out the fact that Predators coach Barry Trotz runs a tight, defensive-minded system that won’t translate well to Kostitsyn’s puck philosophy.

As is normally the case with these types of situations, my guess is that the answer will be somewhere in between. The Predators aren’t loaded with high-end forwards so Kostitsyn will get plenty of opportunities to rack up powerplay minutes and the points that come with it.

Being that he’s only 23 years old, it seems a little strange to say this might be a do-or-die season for Kostitsyn, but it’s been a rocky ride and Kostitsyn must prove that he’s willing to put in the work to be a full-time NHL player. His story should be an interesting one to watch this season.

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    Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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    The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Friday night. You can catch tonight’s games via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

    St. Louis at Dallas (8:00 p.m. ET)

    The TV broadcast of Game 1 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

    Nashville at San Jose (10:30 p.m. ET)

    The TV broadcast of Game 1 will also be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

    Here’s some related reading material you may enjoy:

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    Report: NHL, NHLPA agree on expansion draft rules

    NHL commissioner Gary Bettman answers a question during a news conference before the NHL All-Star hockey game skills competition, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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    The NHL and NHLPA have agreed on the framework for a potential expansion draft, according to TSN’s Gary Lawless.

    Last month, we found out what each team will be able to protect if ever the NHL adds expansion franchises. Bill Daly made it clear that each existing team would only lose one player per expansion team coming into the league. More specifically, teams would be allowed to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie or eight skaters (any position).

    Although this agreement between the league and PA doesn’t guarantee expansion will happen, it does ensure that one major step is out of the way if ever the league decided to add a team or two.

    The agreement between the two sides also includes an expansion scenario for players with no-trade or no-movement clauses in their contracts.

    Here’s an excerpt from Lawless’ story:

    The NHL has hundreds of steps to go through before expansion can potentially become a reality and getting an agreement with the NHLPA was viewed as near top of the list. The executive committee would not have recommended expansion to the NHL’s board of governors for the purpose of a vote without an agreement in place with the NHLPA, and in particular, a resolution on how existing no-trade and no-move clauses will be handled.

    Las Vegas and Quebec City have been mentioned as two potential destinations for  expansion franchises in the near future. As Lawless mentions in his story, NHL general managers were told to expect a decision on expansion for 2017-18 by the NHL Entry Draft in June.

    Related:

    NHL insists ‘no final decisions’ have been made on expansion.

    Daly: Teams can only lose one player per expansion team

    ‘Roster chaos’: Let’s ponder some possible expansion draft scenarios

    PHT Morning Skate: Nick Foligno pulled off an awesome prank on Cam Atkinson

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    PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

    John Tavares and Steven Stamkos once played on the same youth team. That team went 49-0-1. (Newsday)

    –Which team deserves to win the NHL Draft lottery? (Winnipeg Sun)

    –Rick DiPietro wasn’t happy about something Mike Francesca said. (BarDown)

    –Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Capitals and Penguins. (Top)

    Nick Foligno pretended to be a season ticket holder and pranked Cam Atkinson. Funny stuff.

    –Prior to Game 1 between the Penguins and Capitals, T.J. Oshie‘s daughter was filmed kicking a Penguins poster. Maybe she should do it more often because her father scored a hat trick just a few hours later. (Instagram)

    –Brett Hull says “goals don’t matter” when you play for Ken Hitchcock. (Sportsnet)

    Oshie’s hat trick lets Caps just barely squeak by Penguins in OT

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    What a start.

    This series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might be headlined by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, but as many have said in the lead-up to tonight’s opener, there is so much more to this second round matchup than that. Washington’s 4-3 overtime victory in Game 1 tonight could be offered up as Exhibit A.

    This game had everything except big offensive showings from Crosby and Ovechkin. They had their moments, but in the end combined for just one assist.

    What we got instead was a hat trick by T.J. Oshie that was completed with a game-winning goal that made it past the line by such a narrow margin that it warranted a video review:

    This game also featured a sequence of three goals in 90 seconds and yet also some great saves by goaltenders Braden Holtby and Matt Murray. At the other end of the spectrum, there was a controversial hit by Tom Wilson that might lead to a suspension.

    There was even some odd stuff. Like how Jay Beagle got a stick stuck in his equipment.

    Twice:

    If this game sets the tone for the rest of the series, then we should be in for a closely contested, highlight filled affair.

    NOTES:

    Nick Bonino had a goal and an assist for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin and Ben Lovejoy accounted for the Penguins’ other markers.

    — Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky scored the game’s opening goal. It was his first marker of the 2016 playoffs.

    — Washington outshot Pittsburgh 15-9 in the first period, but Pittsburgh ended up with a 45-35 edge.

    — This is the first time in the 2016 playoffs that Braden Holtby has allowed more than two goals. He surrendered just five goals in six games to Philadelphia.

    — Matt Murray suffered his first career postseason loss after winning three straight contests against the New York Rangers.