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P.K. Subban to get mixed reaction: Brendan Gallagher

Canadiens forward expects fans to 'show their respect' for Predators defenseman in return to Montreal

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Senior Managing Editor

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Most of the Montreal Canadiens have heard the chanting before, more than 21,000 Bell Centre fans standing and screaming two letters after having seen something incredible on the ice. 

"P.K., P.K.," over and over again.

The question heading into the Canadiens' game Thursday against defenseman P.K. Subban and the Nashville Predators (7:30 p.m. ET; SN, RDS, FS-TN, NHL.TV) is whether they will hear those two letters chanted at Bell Centre again when he faces Montreal for the first time.

"Well I don't think the whole crowd's going to be cheering for him," Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher said. "Montreal Canadiens fans are Montreal Canadiens fans regardless of what sweater another guy's wearing. He played here for a long time, he did a lot of good things, represented the city very well and obviously the fans appreciated him. So they're going to show their respect. 

"I think the way Montreal's always done it is early on in the game you give him the ovation, and then later on in the game they don't care so much."

Video: P.K. Subban speaks on emotional return to Montreal

The Canadiens plan to hold a video tribute to Subban, giving fans a chance to show their appreciation before the game even begins, so maybe Gallagher is right. Maybe it won't carry over and Canadiens fans will remain Canadiens fans.

But when the trade that sent Subban to the Predators for defenseman Shea Weber on June 29 was announced, and pretty much all summer, there were many fans who claimed their allegiance would be going to Nashville with Subban.

Thursday at Bell Centre, we will see how true that was.

Gallagher was pretty much the only former Subban teammate on the Canadiens to speak to reporters Thursday with the focus primarily on the four players who had arrived in trades over the previous two days: defenseman Brandon Davidson and forwards Steve Ott, Dwight King and Andreas Martinsen.

"I know he's going to be excited," Gallagher said of Subban. "Probably try one or two spin-o-ramas to get the crowd into it. That's something that we're obviously going to be aware of. He's seen us play a lot, he knows our game, we know him. There's a lot of familiarity there. We know what he likes to do. He can hurt you if you don't pay attention to him so we're going to have to play him hard. It's going to be a fun night. The atmosphere in the building's going to where it needs to be, both teams need the two points, so it's going to be exciting."

During Subban's seven seasons in Montreal, he had a tendency to get into skirmishes with his teammates in practice, the intensity of some battle drills bubbling over. Gallagher engaged in several of those because of his job as a net-front presence, so the obvious question for him was: How much is he looking forward to hitting Subban in a game for the first time? (Subban missed Montreal's 2-1 victory at Nashville on Jan. 3 with an upper-body injury.)

"I've hit him before," Gallagher said. "And he's hit me. We've had battles in practice, we've competed, but obviously never in a game. It's something that I'm looking forward to."

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