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Predators' Austin Watson gains reinstatement from NHL

FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 file photo, Nashville Predators left wing Austin Watson plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit. Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson has been suspended without pay as part of the NHLs substance abuse program. The NHL and NHL Players' Association announced Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019 that Watson had been placed in Stage Two of the leagues substance abuse and behavioral health program for treatment related exclusively to his ongoing issues with alcohol abuse. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson has earned reinstatement from the NHL as he enters the follow-up phase of the league's substance abuse program.

The league announced Monday that Watson had been returned to available status. Watson began the season on suspension and was suspended again Jan. 29 as he entered the second stage of the league's substance abuse and behavioral health program.

The Predators said in a statement that they'd have no further comment on Watson's reinstatement ''because of the personal nature'' of the situation and due to their ''exclusive focus on Austin and his family's well-being.''

Watson already had served a suspension for the first 18 games of the season. He pleaded no contest July 24 to domestic assault and agreed to a judicial diversion program that enabled the misdemeanor charge to be dismissed if he served three months of probation and completed an in-patient treatment program and a batterer's intervention program.

His girlfriend, Jenn Guardino, issued a statement in October taking blame for the incident in a gas station's parking lot that led to Watson's arrest.

Watson shared Jan. 11 in an Instagram post that he'd been dealing with anxiety, depression and alcoholism since the age of 18.

The 27-year-old forward has seven goals and 13 points in 34 games with Nashville this season.

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