On those “Radulov returning to Nashville” rumblings…

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There’s some interesting scuttlebutt making the rounds about former Predators forward Alex Radulov.

Radulov, 25, infamously bolted from Nashville to the Kontinental Hockey League in 2008. He’s since gone on to become one of the KHL’s most elite talents (Preds GM David Poile called him “the best player not playing in the NHL”) and led the league in scoring this season.

He’s currently in the midst of Gagarin Cup play with his team, Salavat Yulaev Ufa, down 3-2 in the opening round to AK Bars Kazan. It’s been a contentious series, evident by this Game 3 recap (brilliantly translated on the KHL website):

In the 30th minute of the Game 3 between Salavat Yulaev and Ak Bars a shot from visitors’ forward Evgeny Bodrov triggered a controversial passage of play which could only be resolved with the aid of the video goal judge.

Despite close and detailed scrutiny of the episode using all the technology available, the video goal judge was still unable to determine beyond doubt whether the puck had crossed the Ufa men’s goal line and therefore the referee made the decision not to award a goal.

ANYWAY, the point is Radulov’s season is close to being over — and that’s where things get interesting.

  • According to Sovietsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov, Radulov could go back because he “has the contract” with Nashville. When he left for Russia, Radulov also left a year on his entry-level deal and the NHL essentially “froze” his deal. That means if he comes back to the NHL, he’s bound by that remaining year with Nashville.
  • Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov followed up on Lysenkov’s tweet by reporting Radulov’s Russian agent wouldn’t deny his client’s interest in returning to the NHL this year, but also didn’t want to comment on it.
  • TSN’s Bob McKenzie furthered the intrigue by tweeting that if Radulov was inclined to return to North America he would be eligible, pending NHLPA approval.

Given the Predators got royally shafted in 2008 (Radulov’s KHL deal survived on a technicality, because it was signed days before the NHL reached an agreement with all international hockey leagues to respect players’ existing contracts), it stands to reason there won’t be much objection to him returning to Nashville, given he owes a year of service.

Of course, several things have to happen before that becomes an issue. Salavat needs to get eliminated (Game 6 of the series goes Friday) and Radulov needs to actually decide he wants to play in North America.

Until then, it’s all idle speculation — but also intriguing speculation. Given how aggressive Poile has been this year in “going for it,” the potential of adding Radulov is quite enticing.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

Their struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.

Video: Friday night fights between Bolts and Red Wings

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Not much offense — actually, just one goal midway through the second period as of the writing of this post — between the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.

But there has definitely been some animosity between the two clubs.

Tempers flared late in the first period, with Adam Erne and Andreas Athanasiou getting involved in a spirited scrap — and Athanasiou unsuccessful in his attempt at the take-down.

The bad blood continued in the second period with Greg McKegg and Anthony Mantha getting involved in a fight, and Mantha — given the instigator — landing a couple of shots with McKegg on the ice.

 

NHL, MLB player unions support U.S. women hockey players’ boycott

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Unions representing NHL and Major League Baseball players are backing U.S. Women’s National Hockey team players’ decision to boycott next week’s world championships because of a wage dispute.

The NHL Players’ Association posted a note on its Twitter account on Friday saying it supports the U.S. players while panning USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements. The NHLPA says the decision to go with replacement players “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

Earlier in the day, the MLB Players Association encouraged all women hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

Read more: USA Hockey says it will not offer living wage, as dispute with women’s national team continues

The Twitter messages were posted a day after USA Hockey announced it would begin gauging interest of replacement players to compete at the tournament, which opens next Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.

Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period.