NHL.com: Preds add offense, reunite Kostitsyn brothers
Monday, 02.27.2012 / 1:41 PM / Features
NASHVILLE -- After acquiring Sergei Kostitsyn in 2010 from Montreal as a reclamation project and witnessing his dramatic turnaround, the Nashville Predators now hope they can get similar results from his older brother.
The Predators acquired Andrei Kostitsyn on Monday from the Canadiens for a second-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft and the conditional fifth-rounder they had received Feb. 17 in the teams' deal that sent defenseman Hal Gill to Nashville for a second-rounder in 2012 and minor leaguers Blake Geoffrion and Rob Slaney.
Andrei Kostitsyn, 27, is a three-time 20-goal scorer who has 12 goals and 12 assists along with a minus-8 rating in 53 games.
"Montreal's just a different world," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "When we got Sergei, I heard nothing but Sergei -- he couldn't do this, he couldn't do that. … He's not going to help you. They're wrong and we're right. Sergei was one of the best things. We virtually gave up nothing and got a first-line left winger. Nothing wrong with that.
"He's a good player. I expect the same from Andrei. What I know is he's a terrific talent and he can play. We'll make sure our group is on top of that."
In the Sergei Kostitsyn deal, Nashville gave up goalie Dan Ellis, who became an unrestricted free agent and signed with Tampa Bay, and minor-leaguer Dustin Boyd. Sergei led the Predators with a career-high 23 goals last season and kills penalties for the Preds. After a slow start this season, he has 15 goals and 20 assists in 56 games with a plus-7 rating.
Andrei Kostitsyn is the same height as his brother at 6-foot-0, but weighs seven pounds more and plays more of a physical game in the corners. He was the 10th pick at the 2003 Entry Draft -- coincidentally, held in Nashville -- while Sergei was the 200th selection.
In an interview posted on the Predators' official website, assistant general manager Paul Fenton said the team considered taking Andrei at that '03 draft -- they took Ryan Suter three spots before. The team is aware of Kostitsyn's reputation as an inconsistent player, but feels it will not be an issue on a team that has close-knit chemistry under captain Shea Weber and a respected coach in Trotz.
"He's a very high-end, top-skilled-type of player," Fenton said. "Just getting him to play when he wants to play has been the knock on him. And we think with the insulation we have with our players, we'll be able to do that."
Weber said the team, with the fifth-most points in the NHL entering Monday's games, has been excited about the recent acquisitions. Nashville is looking to earn a playoff berth for the seventh time in eight seasons and is coming off its first-ever series win in the 2011 playoffs.
"We're just happy as a team," Weber said. "We're adding pieces. Obviously, we're a good team in here. Any way you can get better and add crucial little pieces at playoff time and down the stretch, it's big and it's exciting for us in the locker room."
Gill spoke of the difficulty the Canadiens had in Montreal this season with the firing of coach Jacques Martin in midseason and what is looking like a non-playoff season.
"It was a tough year in Montreal, so I'm excited," Gill said. "I know he's going to be excited to come and get a chance to play for something and that's going to be fun for him, I'm sure."
Gill was asked to compare the brothers. He will have played with both in Montreal and Nashville.
"Andrei's a big guy," he said. "He can really control a game in the corner. He can cycle. He's got a heavy shot, so they're different players. There's a lot of different strengths for both of them. It's going to be fun to watch them."
As he came off the ice following his team's morning skate on Monday, Sergei Kostitsyn still wasn't sure whether the Predators' trade for his brother was official.
"It wasn't official before practice," he said. "It is now? I don't know. … Oh, it's official? I'm probably going to talk to him right now."
Sergei joked that his brother wouldn't necessarily be allowed to stay with him. But he is looking forward to the reunion.
"I think he's going to come here, he's going to help a little more than he played in Montreal," Sergei said. "I think he's going to be more happy here and his production's going to go up."
Sergei Kostitsyn said for him it has been easier to focus on hockey in a non-traditional market like Nashville.
"Well, it's not Montreal," he said. "It's more quiet. People, I think, (are) more friendly here than in Montreal. It's better for me than it was in Montreal."
As much as Sergei might be excited to have his older brother on his team, he shouldn't get too excited about playing on the same line with him. It's not going to happen. Not in the short-term, at least.
Both Belarussians are listed as left wings, but Andrei can play both sides. Sergei plays left wing on Nashville's top line with Mike Fisher at center and Martin Erat on the right. Erat has 23 points in his last 24 games and Fisher has 23 in his last 23.
"No, no, not even crossed my mind," Trotz said. "I won't even do that. I don't think. I wouldn't break up the top line. It's gone too well. I told Sergei, 'Don't worry about your brother coming in and taking your spot or anything like that. The first line's going good. I'm not going to break that up."
Nashville now has a good deal of scoring depth. In the past, scoring has been issue for the Preds, but this season their power play is ranked No. 1 in the NHL and they rank 10th at 2.79 goals-per-game.
The team's front office often talks about winning a Stanley Cup.
"Our commitment level is much higher to do that than ever before and our desire, which is more than anything to win it, has a higher belief system than ever before, so this move was made for the long haul," Trotz said, even though Andrei Kostitsyn has an expiring contract. "We're hoping we can be the one of the teams that goes deep, and in the West you don't know. You need luck."
Author: John Manasso | NHL.com Correspondent