Habs’ Subban relishes Western swing

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:29 PM ET

The kid exudes confidence.

Standing in front of a row of cameras having just come off the ice at the morning skate, Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban does not come across as a typical NHL rookie.

Perhaps it’s from playing in one of the league’s biggest media markets, or growing up in another.

Either way, Subban is garnering a lot of attention, making headlines for both right and wrong reasons this season.

“I just want to play,” Subban said. “My focus is about going out and playing. I just try to do my job and that’s all I try to focus on. All that other stuff is just extra.

“The focus for us is just coming out West for the first time this year. We know we have quite the fan base out here and quite the history. It’s pretty cool to come out West and being Canadian, you always enjoy playing in front of Canadian fans and in Canadian cities. It’s going to be a fun trip.”

A Toronto native, Subban, 21, was selected by Montreal in the second round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

He made a name for himself by starring for Canada in a pair of World Junior Championship tournaments.

Last year, he was a late-season call-up from Canadiens AHL affiliate in Hamilton for what proved to be an unlikely playoff run in Montreal.

Subban scored a goal and added seven assists in 14 playoff games, as the Canadiens made it to the Eastern Conference final before bowing out to the Philadelphia Flyers.

This year, Subban started the season with the Canadiens and had seven goals and 18 assists heading into Thursday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

“The last time I was here, I was nine years old for that Edmonton Brick tournament, so it’s good to be back,” Subban said. “That was an awesome tournament. Max Pacioretty and I were talking about it on the flight here.

“We were fortunate to win the tournament and it was a great experience, spending a week in the mall, seeing the dolphin shows, it was a cool experience and something I’ll remember for a long time.”

Thursday’s game was the first of a three-game Western Canada swing for Subban and the Canadiens.

They’ll play in the Heritage Classic against the Calgary Flames on Sunday, before rounding out the trip Tuesday in Vancouver.

It’s expected he’ll get a similar reception in those markets.

The interest in the Canadiens rookie stems not only from his outstanding play this season, but from a few antics that have rubbed some of his peers the wrong way.

Earlier this season, Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards accused Subban of been too cocky for a rookie and of not being respectful to older players.

Last Saturday, former Oilers forward Joffrey Lupul was upset with Subban after a fight, claiming the Canadiens rookie threw punches before they had a chance to remove their helmets, which both have visors.

There was also a report Canadiens veteran defenceman Hall Gill scolded Subban in the locker room for throwing his practice jersey on the floor.

However, journalists who were in the room at the time say Gill was clearly joking.

It’s been an interesting first season for Subban who, despite the scrutiny and the criticism, is enjoying playing under the microscope in Montreal.

“I think that people look at it in a negative way, but I think it’s a positive to play in a market where people love the team and love watching you and love knowing everything about the team and you,” he said. “I think it’s a lot better than to be playing somewhere where nobody really cares. I think we’re fortunate to be playing in that market.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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