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Early adversity a “good thing” for Subban, Predators

The Predators have struggled in P.K. Subban’s first seven games, as the defenseman is still getting used to life in a new conference.

Nashville Predators v Anaheim Ducks Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

SAN JOSE — P.K. Subban’s never won a game at the SAP Center. In four road games against the San Jose Sharks, Subban’s Canadiens went 0-3-1, and Subban only posted an assist in those four games.

“They’re a really good home team, and they’re really good in their building,” Subban said when asked what he remembers about playing in the SAP Center. “We know that they always come out strong, so the first five, ten minutes are pretty key, and you’ve got to make sure you’re sharp and ready to go because they come out hard.”

Tonight, Subban will play his first game in San Jose since joining the Nashville Predators in a stunning trade for longtime Nashville captain Shea Weber. The Predators have struggled so far in the defenseman’s first season. They’ve won two of their seven games, and sit 28th and 27th in score-adjusted Corsi and Fenwick, respectively. Part of that is because the team has struggled getting the puck into the offensive zone, according to Predators head coach Peter Laviolette.

“[We’re] not getting that puck to the next level on the ice,” Laviolette said. “If we only get it to the red line, or if we turn it over to them at the blue line, it goes from being a forecheck in our favor, an offensive play, to a counter from them and coming back at us pretty quick.”

Like the rest of the team, Subban has started off slowly at even strength. He’s tied for second on the team in points (5), but his lone point at even strength is a secondary assist. Through seven games, his on-ice (45.88 CF%, 45.69 FF%) and relative (-0.86 RelCF%, -0.81 RelFF%) possession numbers are the lowest of his career.

Subban admitted that “it’s definitely different” playing in the Western Conference after playing in the Eastern Conference for the first six seasons of his career. Ultimately, Subban said that it will help his game playing in a conference that is considered “a little tougher” by the rest of the league.

“It’s tough. It’s a grind, but I think it’s good,” Subban said. “It’s good for our team, it’s good for me personally. I feel that it’s going to make me a better player. I’ve enjoyed it so far.”

The Predators have enjoyed him, too. Laviolette said Subban has fit in with the team on and off the ice. Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon, who played briefly with P.K. Subban at the 2013 IIHF World Championships in Stockholm, described him as someone who was “always a very personable guy.”

“[He was] a guy who was very good to me,” Dillon said. “Very nice to me, and very easy to get along with, but definitely cares about the game and has put his time in to make himself one of the best players in the league. [With] that trade this past summer, everyone saw how big of a piece he was for Nashville to acquire.”

Subban’s personality was on full display at the Predators’ morning skate, as he threw his arms up in celebration after finally scoring on goaltender Pekka Rinne at the end of a shooting drill. Nashville’s slow start hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm.

“We’re just trying to build, one step at a time obviously,” Subban said. “We’ve had a little bit of adversity early on in the season, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing for our hockey club. I think it’s a good thing.”