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No easy return for P.K. Subban

Predators defenseman logs 22:53 of ice time in physical game against Oilers after sitting out five weeks with injury

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- After five weeks on the sidelines with an upper-body injury, Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban did not return for a soft game.

Subban played 31 shifts and 22:53 of ice time in an intense, physical battle against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place on Friday, helping the Predators to a 3-2 shootout victory.

Video: Ellis, Rinne lead Preds past Oilers in 3-2 SO win

Subban, who last played Dec. 15 against the Minnesota Wild, missed 16 games.

"I felt OK," he said. "It's been about five, maybe six weeks that I haven't been in a game. It's been a while but I felt pretty comfortable out there.

"I think sometimes I probably could have done a little bit more but I just wanted to keep the game simple today and get my feet under me and just build slowly. When our team's playing as well as they are, there's no need for anybody to do anything special."

The Predators, who have won five of their past six games, activated Subban after he took the optional morning skate on Friday.

"I thought he played a really strong game," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "He played a really simple game. He moved the puck well with his outlet passes and he defended well. Coming in, I was trying to keep him around 20 minutes and he probably got up there a little bit because of some of the extra stuff that was going on."

The extra stuff included some in-your-face hockey from both sides.

For instance, at 4:37 of the second period, Edmonton forward Matt Hendricks was on the forecheck and stuck out an elbow that landed on Subban's head. He received a minor penalty for elbowing.

Subban was asked if he was hurt by the elbow.

"You mean the one that hit me?" he said. "Maybe I am because I didn't remember … just kidding. You know what, to be honest, he's not a dirty player so I don't think he did it on purpose. Whether it was his elbow or his shoulder, something hit me in the chin and I wanted to make sure I got up right away because I didn't want to go to the quiet room. I felt fine.

"Those things happen in hockey. They play hard, especially that line, and things will happen sometimes. No harm, no foul."

When the Predators ran into a couple of undisciplined penalties in the third period, Laviolette turned to Subban to help kill the minutes.

"We kept checking with him as the game was going on, and when Matty Irwin went in the penalty box [at 13:11 of the third period], well, we hadn't used [Subban] much on the penalty killing but we told him if the game was on the line, and it was late in the game, that we would see how it was going with him and assess the situation, and that was an opportunity for him to go in and kill some minutes," Laviolette said. "He responded well with everything. He did a good job tonight."

Subban said he knew Thursday he'd be ready to play against the Oilers.

The 27-year-old, who was traded by the Montreal Canadiens to Nashville for defenseman Shea Weber last June 29, said he wasn't putting any timetable on his game returning to its best level.

Friday, he played 2:10 less than his season average of 25:03.

"I don't know," Subban said. "I'll just take it one day at a time. Just like anything else, you don't ever put a deadline on anything. You just do what you can every day."

Subban's ice time was a secondary concern for the Predators, who have been hit hard with injuries to some top performers, among them defenseman Roman Josi, who has missed three games with an upper-body injury, and forward Colin Wilson, who has missed six games with a lower-body injury.

"It definitely lifts our team," said forward James Neal, who had one of the Predators' two shootout goals on Friday. "It gives us a confidence boost knowing that we're getting our top guys back in the lineup.

"We've held our ground and won some games with a lot of guys out of the lineup and that's a credit to the guys that have gotten called up and the depth in the organization.

"Guys have moved up in their roles. When somebody comes up, somebody has to move up in their roles and situations and those guys did an unbelievable job. It's nice to see P.K. back on the ice tonight. It's good when those players start getting back from those injuries."

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