NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) P.K. Subban hasn’t even taken the ice yet in his new Predators’ sweater, yet the defenseman keeps hearing the same thing over and over.
No, he’s not being asked about winning the Stanley Cup even though his acquisition has raised expectations higher in Nashville than they’ve ever been.
He’s being showered with southern hospitality.
“Welcome to Nashville,” Subban said with a grin. “I love that everybody here’s so nice. It’s almost like they’re too nice. It’s impossible to not feel comfortable in this city. So I’ve been here for six or seven days, it feels like I’ve been here for six or seven years. The people are just extremely nice, and I can’t wait for my family to get down here and have the same feeling that I have.”
The Predators reported for training camp Thursday with Subban the big attraction as the man Nashville swapped captain Shea Weber to Montreal on June 29 in one of the NHL’s biggest trades in recent years. The NHL Network and TSN both were represented along with media from Montreal, doubling the number of reporters usually on hand.
Nashville lost in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs to San Jose in seven games. General manager David Poile said the Predators know they’ve changed their chemistry with the move.
“We hope it’s for the better, but we don’t know yet,” Poile said. “We have to play.”
Some things to watch with the Predators this preseason:
MORE FROM RYJO: Subban isn’t the only player the Predators acquired in a big trade this year. Forward Ryan Johansen came to Nashville in January in a deal that sent defenseman Seth Jones to Columbus. Johansen scored 34 points in 42 games with Nashville and posted a plus-10 rating. Poile said Johansen, who turned 24 in July, is bigger and stronger after a good offseason. “He certainly should be in a situation where he could be a guy that could put up more points on the board and get more goals, which everyone is looking for,” Poile said.
MISSING FOR WORLD CUP OF HOCKEY: Four Predators are not in Nashville for the start of training camp. Defenseman Mattias Ekholm and forward Filip Forsberg are playing with Sweden, while defenseman Roman Josi is playing with Team Europe. Goaltender Pekka Rinne is with Finland, while assistant coach Phil Housley is with Team USA.
DEFENSEMEN PAIRINGS: The Predators announced Ryan Ellis will not be skating over the opening days with an upper body injury that will be re-evaluated after a double-header with Florida on Tuesday. With Ekholm and Josi at the World Cup, that leaves more skating time for some of Nashville’s new defensemen like veteran Matt Carle, Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin. Anthony Bitetto and Petter Granberg got playing time last season. Poile said the third defense pairing and the spot as the seventh defenseman is wide open.
RINNE’S BACKUP: With Carter Hutton signing with St. Louis, that leaves the Predators looking for a new goalie to back up Rinne. Marek Mazanec has more NHL experience having played 27 games with the Predators between 2013-14 and 2014-15, and he’s older at the age of 25. Juuse Saros, 21, played one game with Nashville last season. The Predators need one of the goalies to show they deserve to stay in Nashville.
YOUNGSTERS: As young as the Predators have been over the past couple seasons, a couple forwards have a chance to push for a roster spot in training camp in Mike Liambas and Kevin Fiala. Now 20, Fiala played five games with the Predators last season, and the 20-year-old left wing impressed during the team’s rookie camp.