Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle, left, celebrates his first goal of the season as Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban, right, skates by during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, December 11, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
TORONTO - P.K. Subban's return to the Montreal Canadiens lineup hasn't been entirely smooth.
After being a healthy scratch for three games following some erratic play, the rookie defenceman dressed for losses Friday in Detroit and Saturday in Toronto, where the Habs lost 3-1 to the Maple Leafs.
Subban was on the ice for all three Maple Leafs goals, finishing a minus-3. He had a few tough plays, made a few mistakes and jawed with various Leafs—pretty much an average night this season for the Toronto native.
“It just seems like it’s tough to make those (easy) plays right now,”Subban said of his recent game.“We have a week of practice, so (I’m) just go back and work on those little things.”
Subban understands that learning to play the game at the NHL level is a process, but he’s not the type of player who has a lot of patience for the details.
Montreal head coach Jacques Martin said earlier in the week that competition between teammates is healthy and part of the maturing process for young players. So if someone else is playing better than Subban, that person will play. Lately it’s been Yannick Weber.
For Subban right now, it’s all about returning to the form that saw him become an instant sensation during Montreal’s run to the Eastern Conference final last spring.
“I gotta just try to get myself back into the swing of things,”he said.“But to do it at that level where you’re playing and you’re not making any mistakes (is tough), right now it feels really fast, too fast.
“I think that I can skate with some pretty fast players out there, but when they’re going a million miles an hour and my feet are in cement, you know it’s not going to help me.”
Outwardly, Subban holds no ill will towards his coach, but it’s obvious that he’s frustrated with his lot lately and wants to prove himself.
“I’m sure you guys heard what Jacques said ... he’s the coach; he’s going to make the call,”said Subban, who hasn’t notched a point since Nov. 24 and is a minus-4 in five games since.“It’s my job to get myself ready. If he doesn’t think that I’m able to do a job, then I won’t be in the lineup. If he has confidence in me, then I’ll be there.”
One thing is for sure, Subban has confidence in himself. He recently appeared on the cover of The Hockey News because of that confidence and doesn’t hold anything back on the ice. That has seen him labelled as cocky and sometimes draws the ire of opponents who feel the "rook" needs to show more respect to veteran players.
But Subban makes no apologies for his on-ice demeanour, that’s how he’s always been and that’s how he’ll stay. And it seems like he’s getting a little tired of answering questions about it, as he was forced to do Saturday night after some verbal sparring with Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf.
“That’s hockey, man,”he said.“I’m not going to talk about what I’m saying out there on the ice. There’s 40 guys who played the game tonight, I’m sure there’s other guys that were talking.”