Preds’ Subban returns to Montreal for first time since trade (Mar 02, 2017)

MONTREAL — For years, P.K. Subban delighted Canadiens fans with flash and flair at the Bell Centre. And for the first time in nearly a year, the Montreal crowd will get the chance to see him do it all again.

One day after the NHL’s trade deadline, one of the biggest deals of the offseason will be at the forefront when the Canadiens host the Nashville Predators on Thursday night. The game will not only be Subban’s first trip to Montreal since being swapped for Shea Weber last June but also his first game against his former team. Subban was injured when the teams met in Nashville on Jan. 3.

His last game in a Montreal uniform was March 10, 2015, when he sustained a neck injury in a game against the Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre.

“The feelings going back, (I’m) excited, we’re a solid hockey team right now,” Subban told the Predators’ website. “We’re in a position where we want to get the ball rolling. We’ve already started that.

“It’s going to be a big game. It will be an emotional one, and people are going to talk about the trade, but those two points, those are going to be two very, very important points for both teams. I think that will add to the game as well and making it fun to watch, but for me personally, I’m just going to go into it with an open mind and take everything in stride, but enjoy it.”

The Predators (32-22-9) are on a roll of late, winners of a season-high four straight. The offense has been hot during Nashville’s 5-0-1 stretch over the past six games, scoring at least four goals in each contest.

Much of the offensive success has come off the stick of Filip Forsberg. The 22-year-old has 14 points in the past six games; eight of those have been goals, including a pair of hat tricks. His 26 goals lead Nashville, while his 49 points are tied for first with Ryan Johansen.

“(Forsberg’s) been outstanding; he’s really confident right now,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said after a Tuesday win against the Buffalo Sabres in which the talented Swede scored twice, including the game-winner, and recorded an assist. “There’s nobody else that you’d want the puck on their stick in the closing minutes of the third period to get it to overtime. And then in overtime, that’s the guy who has to have it on his stick. Right now, he looks really confident to me.”

Confidence is growing among the Canadiens after they recorded their third consecutive win with an overtime triumph against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. Alex Galchenyuk scored the extra session game-winning goal for a second straight night to give Montreal (35-21-8) its first home win in coach Claude Julien’s latest tenure.

“We talked about getting on a roll. First thing was winning back-to-back, and then the next step was winning at home,” Galchenyuk, who has scored in three straight, said after the game. “We don’t want to lose too many. We haven’t gotten a lot of wins recently at home in front of our fans, so we’ve got to find ways to keep winning.”

With the victory, the Canadiens added some padding to what had been a dwindling Atlantic Division. Montreal now sits six points up on the Ottawa Senators and the Boston Bruins.

In addition to picking up much-needed points, the team is showing signs of jelling under Julien and quickly buying into his system. One of the most notable differences is the Canadiens’ penalty kill, which has given up just one goal on 15 opposing power plays under Julien’s guidance. After ranking in the mid-20s in the league for some time, the unit has moved up to 19th overall.

“He’s got a really good way of explaining his message, and that gets across to us really well,” Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty said after the Tuesday game. “When guys felt like they couldn’t do anything right or make the right plays, Claude’s got a good way of explaining things calmly and being really positive and selling confidence in the guys. People have bought in right away, but we feel like there’s a lot more room for improvement. That’s only natural; he’s only been here for a couple of weeks now, and we hope to keep gaining some steam off that.”

There could be some new faces suiting up for Montreal against Nashville after general manager Marc Bergevin added defenseman Brandon Davidson and gritty forwards Steve Ott, Dwight King and Andreas Martinsen in trades on Tuesday night and Wednesday.

The Predators will have a new addition, too, after they picked up forward P.A. Parenteau from the New Jersey Devils for a 2017 sixth-round draft pick.