Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 2/27/12
NASHVILLE -- Over and over they said it, players and a member of the front office alike. Andrei Kostitsyn, the Nashville Predators' acquisition before Monday's NHL trade deadline expired, comes with a certain amount of baggage and reputation. He is a talented, offensive-minded wing a three-time 20-goal scorer who was selected 10th overall in 2003 -- who will provide the Predators with even more scoring balance. The hope is that Kostitsyn, in being reunited with his brother Sergei, Nashville's leader in goals last season with 23, will be motivated. If so, the addition could have great worth to the Predators coming down the stretch and in the playoffs. It's just that caveat that kept coming up on Monday. "He's a very high-end, top-skilled-type of player," Predators assistant general manager Paul Fenton said in a video posted on the team's Web site. "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." The Predators have a strong leader in captain Shea Weber, who oversees a tightly knit locker room. With bench boss Barry Trotz, the only coach in franchise history, the Predators have plenty of structure and Trotz doesn't go for any nonsense. He's fair, but tends to run a tight ship. One of the worst things for team chemistry is when cliques develop. Since the Preds sent Blake Geoffrion to the minors in late December, Sergei Kostitsyn has had a corner of the team's dressing room all to himself. Whether Andrei Kostitsyn gets seated in that spot next to his brother remains to be seen, but Weber joked in an off-hand way that the team didn't want the two Belarussian brothers sitting next to each other speaking in their native tongue literally and linguistically apart from the group. And Trotz was adamant that he would not break up Nashville's top forward line of Sergei Kostitsyn, Mike Fisher and Martin Erat, who have averaged virtually a point per game since the start of January. Both Sergei and Andrei Kostitsyn play left wing, but Andrei also can play the right side. "I wouldn't break up the top line," Trotz said. "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." The message is that the group is more important than the individual and that the individual has to check his baggage at the door and learn to go along. It took Sergei Kostitsyn a while to get that message last season, but he did and became very productive. "I will talk to him for a little bit," Sergei Kostitsyn said. "I think Barry's going to explain everything. I think (Andrei)'s going to help our team a lot and I think he can score goals. He's got a good shot. I think he's going to be good for us." Andrei Kostitsyn is the second member of Montreal that the Preds acquired in the last 10 days. Defenseman Hal Gill is the other. Gill evidently filled in his teammates on Andrei Kostitsyn. "I've talked to Hal and he's told me that when (Andrei Kostitsyn) wants to be a dominant player that he's got the skill and size and talent to do it, so we're excited to have him," Weber said. There's that "when he wants to be" caveat again. General manager David Poile did not try to gloss over the issue. "We talked about that a lot with the coaches and also with Sergei and our leadership and I think we're very comfortable with that," Poile said. "As you know, we have a little bit of a Montreal connection with Hal Gill and (Francis) Bouillon, so I think we'll be fine there. Andrei, like I say, wasn't playing a big role in Montreal any more. "I say that because he was a top-six forward and recently he's been demoted and he's been playing a lesser role, lesser ice time. I don't think he was entirely happy in that situation there. He has no contract, as I said. He should be motivated to show us and others in the hockey world that he deserves to play on a top team and to be re-signed again." Ryan Suter said it, too. Suter remembers playing against a young Andrei Kostitsyn at international competitions. Suter said Andrei Kostitsyn is "tough" and "strong." But he also mentioned that desire. "He's a high-end guy," Suter said. "When he shows up, he's quite a force to be reckoned with. Hopefully, he can produce for us." Suter's view of the trade and Nashville's others is of special interest. The All-Star defenseman, who is one of the cornerstones of the franchise, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. His desire to re-sign with Nashville reportedly is linked to the team's ability to compete at the highest level. In getting Gill, Andrei Kostitsyn and, just before the deadline, sending a first-round pick in 2012 to Buffalo in exchange for 6-foot-5 center Paul Gaustad and a fourth-round pick, the Predators signaled that they are attempting to make a big run. All three players are in the final year of their contracts. How they perform and the Predators' ability to re-sign them long-term could affect whether Suter chooses to stay. Suter was asked whether the moves caused him to re-evaluate his situation. He has previously said he will not sign a contract until the season ends. "Right now, you just focus on being the best team you can be," he said. "You focus on the playoffs, focus on the task at hand. This summer is when you sit back and start to think about that kind of stuff." Over the last 10 days, the Preds have shown that they are going "all in," in poker speak, for this season. If Andrei Kostitsyn can check his baggage at the door and produce like his brother, it might all just work.
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