By Jim Diamond
Playing his first competitive game since March 10th, P.K. Subban thought that he was rusty. But it did not take long to shake off that rustiness or any lasting effects of the upper-body injury that has nagged him since the start of training camp.
Subban took to the ice for the first time in a Predators uniform Saturday night in a preseason tilt against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning, a game the Predators won 4-3. After notching an assist on Nashville’s late first period power-play goal, Subban tallied a power-play marker of his own at 5:56 of the middle frame.
“Just a lot of rust and there’s a couple moments where the game was a little faster for me,” Subban said. “It’s been almost six months since I’ve been in a game. It’s a long time. I set myself back a little bit in training camp missing the first couple of days.”
The only defenseman on the ice for the man advantage, Subban slid to the left point. Subban’s fellow former Canadien Mike Ribeiro sent a cross-ice pass from above the right circle to the right-handed shooting blueliner. Following his windup, Subban connected with the puck, which was perfectly positioned between his skates. As he followed through, Subban fell to one knee and the puck sailed by Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop.
“Coming into this game, I just didn’t want to hurt my team,” Subban said. “Just happy for the big win. Obviously it’s the first game in our building this year, and even though it’s just an exhibition game, it means a lot for us to get this win just for confidence for our guys.”
Subban’s upper-body injury kept him out of training camp’s on-ice activities until Friday’s practice.
Possibly saving his best goal-scoring celebrations for the regular season, Subban simply lifted his right leg and waived his right arm above his head in a circular motion twice before skating toward Ribeiro to acknowledge his pass before the remaining Predators on the ice at the time of the goal joined the hug fest in the high slot.
The Predators used four forwards and one defenseman almost exclusively on the power play Saturday night. Playing without Ryan Ellis, who is out with an upper-body injury of his own, and Roman Josi, who is just getting back into town following the World Cup, the team was without two players who log big minutes with the man advantage.
With so many talented offensive players both at forward and on the blue line available to him, making decisions on who gets power play time this season will be a tough decision for head coach Peter Laviolette.
“I can tell you right now, we’re going to have tough decisions when that comes around,” Laviolette said after the game. “Ellis is going to be back at some point. Roman, I heard is in the building, I haven’t seen him yet tonight. Obviously those guys are good power play players, so that’s going to leave tough decisions in how we utilize it and how we do it. Based on the lineup tonight, that’s the way we went.”