The NHL today announced, in cooperation with the NHLPA, that Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson has been reinstated from his suspension and has been “returned to available status”. Watson was suspended from play indefinitely in late January after an “alcohol-related relapse” and entered Stage Two of the joint Substance Abuse and Behavioral Program. Watson was cleared to return to action by officials from the league and players’ association, but will remain under supervision by the guidelines of the program.
The Predators have also announced that “consistent with the recommendations” of the program, Watson has returned to active status for the team. The only additional comment the team makes is that he will continue with the “follow-up phase” of the program while returning to play. Due to the “personal nature” of Watson’s suspension and ongoing cooperation with the program, Nashville will not comment any further on the topic.
Nashville will be happy to have the 27-year-old forward back in the lineup, though. Watson missed the first 18 games of the season due to a suspension related to off-season domestic assault charges, a stretch that was reduced from the original 27-game sentence. He then missed another 21 games in his latest absence. This has left him with just 34 games and 13 points to show for the season, just one year removed from a career high in production. The Predators hope that Watson can get back to full speed quickly, as they look to solidify their spot in the Western Conference playoff picture. The Tennessean’s Paul Skrbina reports that Watson is expected to re-join the team immediately for morning skate on Tuesday, but there is no time table for his return to game action.