(Reuters) - Alexander Radulov's long and winding road back to the National Hockey League came to an end on Wednesday when the Nashville Predators welcomed back the wayward Russian, who deserted them four years ago.
Having defected to Russia's Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in 2008 while still under contract to Nashville, Radulov had been under suspension by the Predators but the high-scoring winger was welcomed back with open arms as team prepares for its playoff push.
"I was talking to David (Predators general manager David Poile) four years all the time, Radulov told reporters.
"It's a good opportunity for me to come back and basically, my contract is over in KHL and I always thought about making a comeback and making my return back to the NHL.
"It's a good League and all the best players are playing here. In Russia, it's a good league, too, but I've been there for four years and missed a little bit the NHL."
The Predators first round pick in the 2004 draft, Radulov scored 44 goals and 95 points in two seasons in Nashville but blossomed into a bona fide star in Russia where he was twice voted the KHL's most valuable player.
Rated by many as the best player not in the NHL, the 25-year-old Russian's return to Nashville gives the Predators' Stanley Cup ambitions a major boost.
Radulov will accompany the Predators to Pittsburgh and if fit could be on the ice against the Penguins on Thursday or otherwise would make his debut at home against the Washington Capitals on Saturday.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; editing by Julian Linden)