Subban ‘frustrated’ at missing Canadiens matchup, focused on injury rehab

P.K. Subban talks with media before the Predators and Canadiens game in Nashville. He talks about the toughest part of playing in Nashville, hoping to play when the Preds visit the Bell Centre, and the phone call to Shea Weber after the trade.

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—In the immortal words of singer/songwriter Tom Petty, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

Seven months and five days after defenceman P.K. Subban was traded from the Montreal Canadiens to the Nashville Predators, a herniated disc in his back will deprive him of his first opportunity to play against his former team Tuesday night.

His next chance—a date with the Canadiens at the Bell Centre—is another two months away.

Patience is a virtue, but exercising it is a hard thing to do when an opportunity you’ve been waiting for is snatched away at the last second.

Subban hoped he’d be ready to play Tuesday after missing the last two weeks. He skated on Friday and Saturday but on Sunday Predators doctors prescribed two to three more weeks of rest.

“Obviously I’m frustrated. I just want to get into a game,” he said Tuesday morning. “And obviously everyone knows how important this game is.”

There’s no downplaying it.

Hundreds of Montreal fans booked trips to Nashville just minutes after the NHL schedule was released, and many of Subban’s friends and family members made the trip—even though they found out over the weekend he wouldn’t be dressing for the game.

“So I guess I can still continue to call them friends,” Subban said with a laugh.

He was remarkably upbeat considering his obvious disappointment in this outcome.

Subban entered the press room at Bridgestone Arena fashionably late to his conference, sporting a skin-tight Mackage-brand leather zip coat, a pair of designer sweat pants and Kanye West brand sneakers.

He then proceeded to answer questions for just over 13 minutes, covering ground on his disappointment at missing Tuesday’s game, his adjustment to life in Nashville and the growing pains he’s been through with the team that’s gone 16-14-6 through its first 36 games.

“I’m still adjusting a little bit,” Subban said. “Sometimes you get stuck in that old system where you’re used to playing a certain way, but it is an adjustment. But what I rely on is my teammates when I make a mistake systematically. They’ve always been there to support me.”

They’ll miss him against the Canadiens.

The Predators have gone 3-2-2 in Subban’s absence, and it’s fair to say they’ve lacked some of the energy he brings and the sheer skill with which he operates on the ice.

“He’s obviously a huge player on our team,” said Predators defenceman Roman Josi. “He’s really skilled, but I think we all knew that. He makes some great plays out there. Sometimes he makes passes, and you’re like, ‘Wow! How did he see that guy?’

“It’s stuff you only see when you start playing with him. He’s a great player.”

Predators general manager David Poile gushed on Monday about what Subban has brought to the equation both on and off the ice, referring to him as a magnet for attention who’s had an immeasurable impact on a market where hockey needs to be sold.

“P.K. has an unbelievable presence,” Poile said. “Every day when you’re around him you’re going to get a quote; you’re going to get a story; you’re going to get something else that someone else isn’t doing. I find it very exciting.”

In a lot of ways, Subban is the polar opposite of Shea Weber—who will play his first game in Nashville as part of the visiting team.

Weber’s personality is subdued, his style of play is understated, and as Predators captain Mike Fisher said on Monday, “He doesn’t like the attention.”

Everyone you speak to in Montreal—and in Nashville—will tell you Weber’s all business.

Carey Price has a presence just by the way he acts, by the way he’s [all] business, and Shea Weber is the same thing,” said Canadiens coach Michel Therrien. “There’s not many guys in the NHL that, when they walk in the dressing room, they make people focus. It makes my job easier to have a player like that because I know the guys are well prepared… Definitely he’s had a big impact on our group.”

Subban’s impact on the Predators was largely felt during a 9-3-2 stint in November, when he collected three of his seven goals and seven of his 10 assists on the season.

He said his injury began to plague him in the five games leading up to his removal from the lineup on Dec. 17.

Subban also noted sitting out of games is still a foreign feeling to him, considering that up until last season—when he missed Montreal’s final 14 games with a neck injury—he had never missed one due to injury in his NHL career.

“For me, the last option is to think about coming out of the lineup,” Subban said. “After you miss a game it sucks, you see games go by and you want to get back in there. But, at the same token, you gotta do what’s best for the team and what’s best for yourself.”

Even if it means missing a game you’ve been looking forward to playing for so long.

Subban is confident he’ll be back in game form within the next three weeks, and he can only hope the injury is behind him and won’t prevent him from missing the Predators’ visit to the Bell Centre on March 2.

“I hope I can play in the game in Montreal,” he said. “There’s no question I’ll be there.”

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