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Predators' Austin Watson suspended indefinitely for alcohol abuse

Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson has been suspended indefinitely and admitted into Stage 2 of the NHL's substance abuse and behavioral health program, the league and the NHLPA announced in a joint statement Tuesday.

The suspension is "related exclusively to his ongoing issues with alcohol abuse," the statement said. The suspension is without pay and will be in effect until the forward is cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.

Watson had been suspended for the preseason and the first 18 games of the regular season after pleading no contest to domestic abuse this summer.

Watson, 27, was arrested in Tennessee at a gas station in June and charged with domestic assault against his girlfriend.

Two weeks ago, in an Instagram post, he talked about his struggles with alcoholism, depression and anxiety, and said he has dealt with them since he was 18.

In the post, he said he had been sober for almost two years until he began drinking again in May of last year.

"The Nashville Predators are saddened and disappointed for Austin Watson and his family as he enters the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program for alcohol-related treatment," the Predators said Tuesday in a statement. "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.

"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."

Since returning from the suspension, Watson has seven goals and six assists in 34 games. He has spent his entire five-year career with the Predators, who selected him with the 18th pick in the first round of the 2010 draft.