Austin Watson

Watson to return to Predators for first time since suspension

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson is returning to the lineup for the first time since he was suspended by the NHL more than two months ago for alcohol abuse.

Coach Peter Laviolette announced Watson will play in Nashville’s game Tuesday night in Buffalo. The decision comes two days after Watson was recalled from the minors, where he scored four goals in two games with AHL Milwaukee.

Watson has missed 27 games since being suspended on Jan. 29. He entered the second stage of the league’s substance abuse and behavioral health program because of what the NHL and the players’ union described as ”ongoing issues with alcohol abuse.”

Watson began the season serving an 18-game suspension after pleading no contest to a domestic assault charge in July. His girlfriend issued a statement in October taking blame for the incident in the parking lot of a gas station.

Nashville has three games remaining and entered the final week of the regular season in a three-way race to win the Central Division title.

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Predators assign Watson to AHL on long-term injury loan

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Nashville Predators have put forward Austin Watson on a long-term injury loan to their American Hockey League affiliate, a week after he earned reinstatement from the NHL.

The Predators announced Monday they have assigned both Watson and forward Mikka Salomaki to the Milwaukee Admirals on a long-term injury loan.

The NHL announced last week that Watson had been returned to available status as he entered the follow-up phase of the league’s substance abuse and behavioral health program. Watson had been suspended Jan. 29 as he entered the second stage of that program.

Watson also had served a suspension for the first 18 games of the season after pleading no contest to a domestic assault charge in July. His girlfriend, Jenn Guardino, issued a statement in October taking blame for the incident in the parking lot of a gas station.

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Predators’ Watson suspended, in substance abuse program

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Predators forward Austin Watson, who began this season on suspension, has been suspended again as part of the NHL’s substance abuse program.

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association announced Tuesday that Watson had been placed in Stage Two of the league’s substance abuse and behavioral health program ”for treatment related exclusively to his ongoing issues with alcohol abuse.”

That means Watson, who won’t be paid during this suspension, cannot return until program administrators clear him to return.

The Predators said in a statement that they are ”saddened and disappointed” for Watson and his family.

”We are grateful for the NHL and NHLPA’s program and will cooperate in any way necessary as we continue to support Austin and his family as they go through this difficult time,” according to the team statement. ”Because of the personal nature of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program and our exclusive focus on Austin and his family’s well-being, there will be no further comment on this matter.”

Watson already had served a suspension for the first 18 games of the season after pleading no contest to a domestic assault charge in July. His girlfriend, Jenn Guardino, issued a statement in October taking blame for the incident in the parking lot of a gas station, saying she had struggled with alcoholism for years and was involved in AA.

The Predators forward shared Jan. 11 in an Instagram post that he’d been dealing with anxiety, depression and alcoholism since the age of 18. He said that he was currently sober and committed to a ”healthy lifestyle.”

Watson currently has seven goals and 13 points in 34 games with Nashville, which is second in the Central Division.

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Predators’ Watson: Alcohol issues led to his arrest

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson says the arrest last year that led to his 18-game suspension came when he started drinking again after 23 months of sobriety.

Watson, who turns 27 on Sunday, said Friday in an Instagram post that he’s been dealing with anxiety, depression and alcoholism since the age of 18. Watson said he voluntarily entered the NHL’s substance abuse program after his June 16 arrest.

”I am currently sober and committed to living a healthy lifestyle so that I can be the father, partner, teammate and person I want to be,” Watson said.

Watson pleaded no contest July 24 to domestic assault and agreed to a judicial diversion program that enabled the misdemeanor charge to be dismissed if he served three months of probation and completed an in-patient treatment program and a batterer’s intervention program.

He initially received a 27-game suspension from the NHL, but an arbitrator reduced it to 18 games. He was reinstated in mid-November and has six goals and two assists in 28 games this season.

Watson was arrested in connection with a June 16 incident after a witness flagged down a police officer to a gas station in Franklin Tennessee. According to the incident report, Watson told police he and his girlfriend were arguing and that he pushed her. Officers said they found red marks on her chest, and she said Watson caused them.

Watson’s girlfriend, Jenn Guardino, issued a statement in October taking blame for the incident and saying Watson would never hit or abuse her. In her statement, Guardino said she had ”struggled with alcoholism for many years.”

In his Instagram post, Watson said that he and his girlfriend were ”engaged in a heated, nonphysical argument” that day. Watson said that both he and his girlfriend had relapsed in their battles with alcoholism during the month leading up to the incident.

”I did not cause marks on her chest or blood on her leg,” Watson said. ”I did handle matters that day poorly and did not uphold the standards of an employee of the Nashville Predators or National Hockey League.

”I take full responsibility for my involvement in the argument and have learned from the situation and taken the necessary steps to ensure that nothing of this nature happens again.”

Watson added that he and his girlfriend are ”healthy, happy and committed to our own individual sobriety as well as continuing to strengthen our relationship.”

”We have learned from our mistakes and are excited to move forward in our relationship,” Watson said. ”We wish only to raise our daughter Olivia in the most healthy and loving atmosphere we can provide.”

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Jenn Guardino, girlfriend of Predators’ Austin Watson, says he never abused her

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Jenn Guardino, the girlfriend of Austin Watson, has come out with a statement saying that the Nashville Predators forward did not physically abuse during an incident in June, clarifying that the incident was the result of her battle with alcoholism.

Watson is currently serving an 18-game suspension for his role in the domestic violence incident, one that began at 28 games before an independent arbitrator reduced it earlier this week.

In a statement first tweeted out by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman on Saturday, Guardino thanked family and friends for their support and extended her compassion to victims of domestic violence before clarifying the incident that took place in June.

“The incident that took place on June 16th, however, was not an act of domestic violence,” she wrote. “Austin Watson has never, and would never hit or abuse me. My behavior and state of intoxication led to the police being involved that day. I have struggled with alcoholism for many years and I am actively involved in AA.”

Guardino thanked Watson for his continued support through her treatment.

“We handled matters poorly on June 16th and know that we need to make better decisions going forward. I take full responsibility for my actions on that day. I would like to sincerely apologize to everyone involved for the negative attention that followed this incident, including the Nashville Predators community and the city of Nashville.”

The 26-year-old reportedly shoved Guardino during an argument at a gas station in Tennessee over Guardino’s drinking, which had led the couple to miss a wedding.

Watson pleaded no contest to the charges in July.

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Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck