Fisher: Predators fans are going to love Subban

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) P.K. Subban already has belted out “Folsom Prison Blues” at Tootsie’s, a famous tonk. He visited the local children’s hospital before training camp opened. Then he scored a goal in each of his first two preseason games with his new team.

In Nashville, that’s called knowing how to make an entrance.

Subban’s passion may not have gone over well with coaches and management with the Montreal Canadiens. His new teammates with the Nashville Predators see the defenseman as a perfect fit in Music City – a town built on entertainment and filled with fans who want a great show from a franchise now expected to go further than ever before in chasing the Stanley Cup.

“Fans are going to love him, there’s no question,” Predators captain Mike Fisher said. “And our fans are very passionate. They’re loyal. They’re forgiving, too, even through the ups and downs. … It’s not going to be long before he’s a lot of people’s favorite player.”

Montreal and Nashville stunned the NHL on June 29 when the teams swapped star defensemen straight up, sending Predators captain Shea Weber north for the 2013 Norris Trophy winner. Talk surfaced of personality conflicts with the organization and inside the Canadiens’ locker room, and Subban tried to make it clear he loved Montreal, both the atmosphere and media in a town that loves its storied hockey team.

“At the end of the day, there’s a lot of people who have microphones and pens and paper and I can’t challenge every person that has made an opinion of me based on `facts,”‘ Subban said. “So for me, I’d rather just let my play do the talking, and I look forward to being a big part of this team moving forward. … I’ve always been one to let my actions do my talking for me.”

Subban is busy making friends in his new locker room and learning his way around Nashville, a switch for a guy used to being the one who welcomes new players.

“It’s an exciting time for me at 27 years old with no family or any children or anything like that,” Subban said. “It’s like you get a bunch of new brothers right? So it’s fun.”

The Predators prefer to make their own minds up about Subban rather than listen to rumors. Fisher said it’s easy to hear a lot of things about players, and he believes Subban will fit in nicely.

“Everyone knows he’s an outgoing guy that brings passion to the game and sometimes the game of hockey that’s a little bit laid back it’s something new, but I think it’s a good thing,” Fisher said.

Forward James Neal has had dinner with Subban and sees someone both passionate about hockey and his fans. Subban’s comfort handling both the media and social media has been quickly noticed.

“He’s going to be good for our team,” Neal said.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne was shocked by the trade sending his close friend Weber to Montreal.

“But all of a sudden you realize you’re going to get P.K., all the potential and all the talent he brings,” Rinne said. “He’s going to bring a lot of different elements to our team and also the attention on him. He’s very electric and a very exciting player to watch on the ice and off the ice. He’s going to bring a different element to our team. It’s good for the city of Nashville, the organization.”

Nashville fans got a great look at Subban during the NHL All-Star weekend in January. Subban slipped on a wig to imitate Jaromir Jagr for lots of laughs during the breakaway challenge and ended up winning the event decided by Twitter .

This franchise went seven games in back-to-back series last spring in the postseason, and general manager David Poile saw Subban as the perfect combination of skating and speed for coach Peter Laviolette’s attacking offense. The trade was criticized in Montreal with the Predators getting the younger player. Poile thinks that speaks more to just how popular Subban was throughout Quebec.

“We’ve seen in the short time P.K.’s been here … he makes a lot of touches and he gets a lot of publicity,” Poile said. “People gravitate to him because he’s a hockey player, yes, but he has more going on his life and he has some really good purposes in his life.”

The Predators sold out a franchise-record 35 games last season, though the need to sell tickets never fades. Subban is more than happy to help sell the sport of hockey in his new winter home.

“At the end of the day, it’s sports entertainment, and we have to perform to keep fans in the seats and what they pay helps put food on our tables,” Subban said. “The more people we can engage and bring into the game, the better our game is going to be.”

A perfect fit indeed.

AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.

Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.