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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    Islanders officially activate Johnny Boychuk (upper body) off IR

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    The New York Islanders got some good news on the injury front, as they’ve activated Johnny Boychuk off injured reserve.

    The 32-year-old missed a total of 11 games because of an upper-body injury he suffered in a game against the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 31 (above).

    New York went 5-5-1 without Boychuk, and they conceded four goals or more in five of those contests.

    In 38 games with Boychuk, the Islanders had allowed four goals or more just six times.

    The Islanders currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division. They’re three points behind the Rangers (two games in hand) and 18 points behind the first place Capitals.

    In a corresponding move, they assigned defenseman Scott Mayfield to the AHL.

    Wideman’s suspension appeal will be heard in New York City on Wednesday

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    Dennis Wideman‘s appeal for his 20-game suspension will take place in New York City on Wednesday, per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

    The 32-year-old has already served two games for his hit on linesman Don Henderson (above).

    Gary Bettman will be the one to decide if Wideman’s suspension should be reduced. If the Commissioner decides not to reduce the suspension to six games or less, the Flames defenseman will have the right to be heard by a neutral arbitrator.

    Earlier this week, Wideman apologized publicly for the incident, but maintained that he never intended to hurt Henderson.

    “I feel awful about what happened,” the Flames defenseman said after he was suspended 20 games.

    “I feel really bad about the whole situation. The last seven days have been tough. Never in my career have I ever disrespected, or done anything like this, to an official.”

    When the suspension was handed down, the league said Wideman was diagnosed with a concussion after the game, but they aren’t using that as an excuse in this case.

    “It is accepted for the purposes of this decision that he was later diagnosed as having suffered a concussion,” the NHL said. “However, that fact even accepted as true, cannot excuse Wideman’s subsequent actions.”

    The Ducks look pretty mighty right now after six consecutive wins

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    In what should be a disturbing trend for every other team in the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks have now won six consecutive games, and eight of their last 10.

    After dominating the shot clock for pretty much all of Friday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, the Ducks completely took over on the scoreboard in the third period. It seemed like only a matter of time before a breakthrough would occur.

    Just 24 hours after beating the L.A. Kings, the Ducks earned a 5-2 victory over the Coyotes.

    Ryan Kesler has eight points in his last six games. Corey Perry has seven points in his last six games. Patrick Maroon, who had only eight points all season prior to Friday, had a three-point night versus Arizona.

    Again. Bad news for every other team in the Pacific.

    The Ducks now have a three-point lead over the Coyotes for third place in the division. They’re one point back of second-place San Jose and eight back of division-leading L.A.

    As for everyone else, more specifically the Canucks, Flames and Oilers, well it might be time to start focusing more on the upcoming trade deadline and, beyond that, the draft.

    The Ducks had a terrible start to this season, one that started with so much hype about a team seen as an immediate Stanley Cup contender for 2015-16.

    Count Corey Perry as one who believes those early season struggles could pay off at playoff time.

    And remember all of that talk in October about Bruce Boudreau perhaps at the end of his days as coach of the Ducks?

    At the end of October, GM Bob Murray vowed to be patient despite such a poor start just a few months after being one win away from the Stanley Cup Final last June.

    There is still plenty of hockey remaining in the regular season. The Ducks have 32 games remaining on their schedule. But it appears that patience Murray showed in October is paying off.

    Jets can’t complete the comeback after miserable start against Hurricanes

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    WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Phillip Di Giuseppe, Andrej Nestrasil, Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk scored in the first period, and the Carolina Hurricanes held on for a 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.

    The Hurricanes scored four times on their first nine shots, taking a 4-0 lead just 10:04 into the game. Nestrasil added another goal in the third period, and Cam Ward made 33 saves. Staal and Joakim Nordstrom each had a pair of assists.

    Alexander Burmistrov, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler scored for Winnipeg.

    Jets rookie Connor Hellebuyck allowed three goals while facing only six shots before being replaced by Michael Hutchinson after Staal’s power-play goal just 4:33 in. Hutchinson, who hadn’t played since a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on Jan. 3, finished with 21 saves.

    The loss wrapped up Winnipeg’s season-high six-game homestand, which included just one victory.

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    Carolina’s first goal came after the Jets turned over the puck and Di Giuseppe scored on a sharp-angled shot at 1:43.

    Hellebuyck then kicked out a bad rebound and Nestrasil tallied his 16th goal of the season in his 100th NHL game from almost the same angle at 3:05.

    With Byfuglien in the penalty box for delay of game, Staal’s shot beat Hellebuyck, ending the young goalie’s night.

    Faulk made it 4-0 when his team’s third shot at Hutchinson went between his pads at 10:04.

    The Jets came out at a faster, more aggressive pace to start the second period and it paid off with 1:25 remaining.

    Andrew Copp and Chris Thorburn were battling a pair of Hurricanes behind the net when Thorburn poked the puck out front as he was falling and Burmistrov got his sixth goal of the season.

    Ladd, who hit the post late in the second period, banged home a rebound with Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner off for hooking at 9:07 of the third.

    Byfuglien one-timed a pass from Nikolaj Ehlers that Wheeler deflected to make it 4-3 with 6:12 remaining.

    Nestrasil sealed the win with his second goal at 18:40.

    NOTES: Ehlers’ assist extended his point streak to six games, with four goals and four assists. … Winnipeg heads out for a two-game road trip starting in Colorado on Saturday. Carolina visits Montreal on Sunday.