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Bruins' Malcolm Subban out to grab NHL job

Recovered from throat surgery, goalie is in development camp this week

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- It was back when Malcolm Subban was first starting to speak again, his voice still raspy and ragged, that he thought he would make his plea. What better time, really? He would ask his parents, at the height of their sympathy for him, to allow him to get a car.

"That's why I did it," Subban said, smiling, his voice recovered. "It's the perfect time to ask."

They didn't bite.

It took approximately two weeks for Subban to get the request out after the goaltender had throat surgery in February for a fractured larynx, the result of a puck that hit him during warmups for an American Hockey League game against Portland on Feb. 6. He certainly never anticipated in the moment that would be the result of the shot, that he wouldn't be able to utter another word for weeks.

But despite the surprisingly -- to Subban -- serious nature of the injury, the goaltender returned to the ice, to practice, and joined his future teammates at Ristuccia Arena for the first day of Boston Bruins development camp Tuesday. Though he did drills only with goaltending coach Bob Essensa on the first day of practice, not joining the rest of the group, he is expected to return to full duty Wednesday.

And then -- maybe, just maybe -- to come out of training camp with the full squad.

Though Subban had seemed to be the heir apparent to the Bruins' backup goaltender job, general manager Don Sweeney opted to sign Anton Khudobin, who played 15 games for Boston in 2012 and 2013, at the start of free agency, inking him to a two-year contract worth $1.2 million per season.

Video: Malcolm Subban on the Subban brothers' NHL futures

As Sweeney said on July 1, "Anton Khudobin addressed an area that we seemed to have chased for a little while and possibly with Malcolm's injury, we needed to address that for the next couple of seasons."

It was a challenge to Subban, one that the 22-year-old hopes to meet.

"I'm not too focused on anything else that goes on in the organization," said Subban, the brother of Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban. "It's all just about playing my game and trying to make sure that I'm ready to go and I can deliver what they want me to. That's what my focus is going into camp."

And it was the path that Subban had seemed to be on before the February injury that cut short his season. The goaltender had been playing well, some of his best hockey, in fact, as he continued to learn to corral his athleticism, getting smarter and steadier in net.

He had played 27 games in his third season with Providence in the AHL and had a 2.46 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. But more than that, he had found his stride after a rough start to the season, with a 1.84 GAA and .935 save percentage in January. He was calmer in net, quieter, not making the unnecessary movements that he had previously. The game was becoming easier for him, mentally and physically, and his consistency resulted from that.

Video: Bruins Academy catches up with goalie Malcolm Subban

Video courtesy of BostonBruinsTV

Then came that puck.

In the moments after it happened, Subban didn't think it was a problem, attempting at first to remain on the ice.

As he said, "When stuff like that happens, I tend to remain pretty calm."

But he couldn't exactly breathe, so he made his way over to the equipment manager, who advised him to drink some water. That wasn't going to work. He -- finally -- came off the ice.

"I honestly thought that I just got hit, it was swollen, and I was going to have to come back and backup on the bench and be freezing cold," Subban said. "That's what I thought was going to happen. I didn't think anything serious happened, to be honest. I just thought I was going to go back out and then instead they were putting me to sleep and I woke up the next morning."

He remained in the hospital for five days, reduced to using the notes function on his cell phone to communicate for the next couple of weeks. But it was the day and a half when he had tubes down his throat that, he said, were the worst.

It cost him his season, a season when he likely could have seen a call-up to Boston by the end, when the Bruins were less than pleased with the performance of backup Jonas Gustavsson. And it took him off the ice, at a time when he wanted to be there, badly.

"He was progressing great," Boston assistant coach Jay Pandolfo said Tuesday. "It was unfortunate, the injury he had, having to miss half a season. But he's definitely on the right track."

That road, he hopes, will end with him making the Bruins in the fall, challenging and beating out Khudobin for the right to back up Tuukka Rask. He has new gear, new protection, in the form of an upgraded neck piece and neck guard.

As he said, "Honestly, I feel like a tank. I'm not even worried at all about getting hit again."

Subban has fully recovered, other than a hit to his singing voice. He is ready. He welcomes the challenge and believes in himself and his ability to make these Bruins, to not return to the AHL for a fourth season.

"My goal is to make the team, come in this year as it is every year," Subban said. "So that's what I'm going to try and do, but regardless of where I am I just have to play well, give my team a chance to win every night. I feel like if I can bring that, for sure, they'll notice and they'll respect that, and hopefully I'll get an opportunity, an opportunity that I want."

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