Predators’ Watson suspended, in substance abuse program

Predators forward Austin Watson, who began this season on suspension, has been suspended again as part of the NHL’s substance abuse program.

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association announced Tuesday that Watson had been placed in Stage Two of the league’s substance abuse and behavioral health program “for treatment related exclusively to his ongoing issues with alcohol abuse.”

That means Watson, who won’t be paid during this suspension, cannot return until program administrators clear him to return.

The Predators said in a statement that they are “saddened and disappointed” for Watson and his family.

“We are grateful for the NHL and NHLPA’s program and will cooperate in any way necessary as we continue to support Austin and his family as they go through this difficult time,” according to the team statement. “Because of the personal nature of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program and our exclusive focus on Austin and his family’s well-being, there will be no further comment on this matter.”

Watson already had served a suspension for the first 18 games of the season after pleading no contest to a domestic assault charge in July. His girlfriend, Jenn Guardino, issued a statement in October taking blame for the incident in the parking lot of a gas station, saying she had struggled with alcoholism for years and was involved in AA.

The Predators forward shared Jan. 11 in an Instagram post that he’d been dealing with anxiety, depression and alcoholism since the age of 18. He said that he was currently sober and committed to a “healthy lifestyle.”

Watson currently has seven goals and 13 points in 34 games with Nashville, which is second in the Central Division.

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