For Sergei Kostitsyn, going back to Montreal is not just a return to his home of the previous three years. It’s also like going back to his childhood in Belarus.
That’s because, for the first time as a professional, the Nashville Predators’ 23-year-old forward will be on opposite sides with his older brother when Nashville faces Montreal on Thursday.
“We’ve never played against each other (as professionals),” he said. “When I was a kid we played against each other but not since then.
“It’s going to be fun.”
Sergei and Andrei Kostitsyn were teammates with the Canadiens for the past three seasons before Montreal traded him to Nashville in exchange for Dustin Boyd in June, just prior to the start of the NHL’s free agency period.
Going their separate ways has produced decidedly different results.
Andrei, who is two years older, is the Canadiens’ second-leading scorer with 14 points (in 18 games) and his seven goals have him tied for the team lead.
Sergei has missed one-quarter (four) of the Predators’ 16 contests and has seen limited playing time. He has been on the ice fewer than 10 minutes in each of his last two outings – a first in his NHL career.
“(He must show) just a little more of the second effort stuff,” coach Barry Trotz said. “When there’s a contested puck, win more of those contested puck battles. What will happen – with his skill set – he’ll be able to keep plays alive a lot longer. When you keep plays alive longer, you’re going to open up coverage and then you’ll be productive.
“He’s almost there, but then he’s just off a little bit. He’s really a good player. I’ve had no problems with him at all.”
Sergei Kostitsyn’s production actually has been on a steady decline ever since his rookie season, when he had nine goals and 18 assists in 52 games for Montreal. He followed that with 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) and then 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in a career-low 47 games last season.
Nashville felt that a change of scenery would provide a fresh start for a player who had 131 points (40 goals, 91 assists) in his final season of junior hockey.
Things got off on the wrong foot, though, when he sustained a broken foot early in training camp.
“He’s still hobbled – he had the broken toe and we haven’t given him three weeks off to let it heal, he’s played right through it,” Trotz said. “So he’s still hobbling around a little bit, especially off the ice.”
Sergei Kostitsyn plans to be back on familiar ice Thursday but has not plans to try and prove anything to his former team or his brother.
“I think it’s more important to win games in the NHL,” he said.