NHL.com: Brylin, Button believe Radulov return will go well

Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 10:57 AM / Features
Sergei Brylin has seen enough of Alexander Radulov over the last four seasons in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League to understand the impact he can have on any team in any league on any continent.
 
Brylin, the ex-New Jersey Devil and three-time Stanley Cup winner, expects Radulov to have that type of powerful impact on the Nashville Predators.
 
"He tries to play an NHL style game in Russia," Brylin told NHL.com of Radulov, who is expected to join the Predators Thursday in Pittsburgh. "He's not afraid of going into the corners and battling. He's not afraid to get hit and give a hit. I think he's going to be fine. The fact that he is four years older than when he last played in the NHL -- he has matured a lot."
 
Radulov matured in Russia. The now 25-year-old forward was a two-time MVP in the KHL and helped Salavat Yulaev Ufa win the Gagarin Cup (KHL's playoff championship trophy) in 2011. He put up 254 points in 210 games over four seasons in the KHL, including 63 points in 50 games this past season playing in the same division as Brylin.
 
Brylin said Radulov was usually the best player on the ice no matter the opponent, arena or time of year.
 
"He's very emotional. He's a big part of that team (Ufa)," Brylin said. "He plays the game with passion, especially last year in the playoffs. I think he led that team by example and was very influential both that way, and also by scoring big goals, getting points. And they won the championship. The fact that they won speaks for itself."
 
Radulov comes to the Predators with the goal of helping them win a Stanley Cup this spring. How can he do that?
 
He is four years removed from scoring 26 goals and dishing out 32 assists for Nashville, so clearly he comes back with the expectation that he will be a scorer.
 
He had 44 goals and 51 assists with the Predators before jumping ship to the KHL after the 2007-08 season. He should add scoring depth to a team that was ninth in the NHL with 2.81 goals per game and tied for first on the power play at 21.6 percent entering Monday's games.
 
"Right now he might be in his prime," Brylin said.
 
Radulov has size and skill. He likes to use it around the net to make plays.
 
"He's terrific down low," NHL Network analyst and former Flames GM Craig Button told NHL.com. "He's terrific in tight around the net. Below the dots he can maneuver and get himself into spots."
 
Button added that Radulov's ability below the faceoff dots should benefit the Predators' already potent power play.
 
"He is just a dangerous, dangerous player around that net, and now you've got to take him away as well as take away (Shea) Weber and (Ryan) Suter," Button said. "That makes their power play really much more dangerous, and their power play is already dangerous.
 
"I don't know if he's that home run hitter, but to use a baseball analogy, you know when you get somebody who is really good and will fit right into your batting order and be a hard out, that's what he is and that's what he does for Nashville -- he makes them a harder out."
 
But first Radulov has to make the adjustment back to the smaller North American-sized rinks after playing four seasons on the larger European rinks.
 
Players who have done it say adjusting to the small rinks after years on the large rinks can be difficult simply because the time and space that is available Europe does not exist in North America.
 
Brylin, though, said since Radulov has already done it, and has had many years of experience on the small rinks, including two seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he should be able to make a smooth transition.
 
"It's not like it is going to be new for him," Brylin said. "The fact that there are still a few games left before playoffs will benefit him. It gives him time to back into the NHL game, get a feel for his teammates and the system. Everything is going to be in his hands. He's still in shape because they just got knocked out."
 
It wasn't long ago that Radulov was playing for a league championship in Russia. It's an experience Button said should only benefit him once the Predators get into the playoffs.
 
Radulov also won at the World Championships with Team Russia and captured the Memorial Cup in 2006 playing under Patrick Roy in the QMJHL. He was named the MVP of the Memorial Cup with 9 points in four games.
 
"He has lots of big game experience," Button said. "He's also always been a player that has performed under the spotlight in those big games. As long as I can remember, the bigger the game he always showed up and was there at the front of the line. He's a guy that has been a big-stage player."
 
There's no bigger stage than the one the Predators hope to stand on this spring.
 
Radulov might just be the guy that helps them get there.
 
"Winning matters to him. He plays to win," Button said. "He's a smart guy, too. He's not coming back here thinking this is easy, and that's another big part of this. He knows what he is getting into and the fact that he wants to get into it speaks volumes."
 
"Acclimating back to the intensity on a day-in and day-out basis will probably be his biggest challenge. This time of the year in the NHL is really demanding."
 
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer

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