Yesterday we took a look at Patric Hornqvist, Roman Josi, and Kevin Klein, three of the Nashville Predators playing overseas during this year’s NHL lockout. Today we’re looking at the other three Preds putting in time abroad, including one of the team’s top scorers, one of its brightest young players, and our beloved franchise goalie.
LW Sergei Kostitsyn
Poor Sergei Kostitsyn. First his big brother Andrei comes to town via trade and ties an anchor around the family name with a night of partying during the playoffs. Then he signs with Avangard Omsk in the KHL, only to be quoted soon afterward by a reporter – surely with no agenda! – as saying he wished the NHL lockout would last all season. The guy just can’t catch a break.
Unless he’s on the ice in Omsk, that is. Kostitsyn is currently second on Avangard in points with 24 (8G-16A). The only player who’s scored more, LW Tomas Zaborsky, has played in 13 more games than SK74. His presence – along with the Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Ladd and former LA King/NY Ranger Alexander Frolov – has helped propel Avangard Omsk into the top spot in the Chernyshov Division and the second-best record in entire KHL.
Here are some of the highlights, including a goal from SK74 and his assist on the OT game-winner, from Avangard’s win a few weeks back over Evgeni Malkin’s Mettalurg Magnitogorsk:
G Pekka Rinne
Pekka Rinne signed a deal to play for Dinamo Minsk in the KHL during the lockout. The team is struggling this season, sitting in 5th place out of 7 teams in the Tarasov Division. Those struggles have come despite Dinamo carrying our franchise goalie and a load of other NHL talent, including Minnesota Wild G Nicklas Bäckström, San Jose Sharks C Joe Pavelski, and Winnipeg Jets C Evander Kane, on the roster.
Our favorite Finnish goalie has struggled right along with the club as he has re-adapted to the international-size rinks used in the KHL after several years in North America. His 2.93 GAA and .904 save percentage in 20 games probably have at least a little to do with not having Shea Weber and Ryan Suter playing in front of him. They might also have something to do with not starting 7 out of every 8 games. (Pekka needs to see pucks!)
Whatever problems he might be having, he still knows how to make a highlight-reel save:
Dinamo has some ties to the Nashville Predators organization through a few other players on the roster. Menacing Finnish defenseman Jere Karalahti played 15 games with the Preds back in 2001-02, while Czech forward Libor Pivko suited up for exactly one game in a Nashville sweater back in 2003-04, the same year that he won the Calder Cup with the Milwaukee Admirals.
RW Craig Smith
Early on in the lockout, last year’s Nashville rookie sensation Craig Smith signed a contract to play with KalPa Kuopio in the SM-Liiga, Finland’s elite league. He looked good on the ice, posting 8 points (4G-4A) and 29 PIMs in 8 games, including a 4-point game in his debut. After that point Smith left the team to return to the United States, citing personal reasons – but not before inspiring this fan video of his highlights-reel scoring plays and “a little physical play”:
Since his departure Smith has been training in Madison, Wisconsin, just down the road from the Preds’ farm club in Milwaukee.
Smith wasn’t the first player with ties to Nashville to play for KalPa during a work stoppage. Former Preds RW Adam Hall suited up for the team during the 2004-05 lockout. The team is partially owned by former Nashville Predators (and current Philadelphia Flyers) Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell. Timonen, a hometown favorite in Kuopio, played there from 1991 to 1994 before coming to North America.
That’s my rundown of the Nashville Predators playing overseas. Hopefully they can all come home soon and get to work on making another playoff run!