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Subban feels he can reach another level for Devils

Defenseman has 11 points, trying to maintain positive attitude

by Mike. G. Morreale @MikeMorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- P.K. Subban said Monday that he has not played his best this season with the New Jersey Devils, but he is keeping a positive attitude.

"I would expect that people who are in hockey that watch me play every night know what I bring but there's still another level or two to my game that I haven't really touched this year," the defenseman said following practice. "I think that's a positive thing, but you have to get there. I think in the past eight games, I've been on the power play consistently, building chemistry, getting looks, and playing a game that I'm used to playing."

New Jersey (18-24-9), which is last in the Metropolitan Division, plays one of Subban's former teams, the Montreal Canadiens, at Prudential Center on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG, TSN2, RDS, NHL.TV). 

Video: NJD@TOR: Subban hammers one-timer home for PPG

"I think when I came at the start of the year I wasn't really playing a game that I've always played, and there's a lot of things that have transpired and have happened but getting back to playing my game and making mistakes that I'm more accustomed to making because I'm playing my game, so all of those things are fun to see and I just have to continue to get into that rhythm," Subban said.

The Devils acquired Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators for defenseman Steven Santini, a defenseman prospect and two NHL Draft picks on June 22. He has this season and two more left on an eight-year, $72 million contract (average annual value of $9 million) he signed with the Canadiens on Aug. 2, 2014. The 30-year-old was traded to the Predators by the Canadiens for defenseman Shea Weber on June 29, 2016.

Subban, who won the Norris Trophy voted as the League's best defenseman in 2013, has 11 points (six goals, five assists) and two power-play points (one goal, one assist) in 51 games this season. His NHL career low came last season with the Predators when he had 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists) in 63 games.

Video: NYI@NJD: Wood sets up Subban for one-timer

"I haven't had too many seasons where people had to raise an eyebrow, but this season has been tough," Subban said. "I have that standard of expectation to be a top defenseman in the League every year and to be a guy that's considered in those Norris Trophy conversations. It doesn't mean you have to win the Norris Trophy every year, but you want to be in those conversations, and I know I'm still that player. 

"I think that sometimes you have to buy into the situation that you're in and make the best of what you have and where you're at and right now I have to continue to improve my game and get better but also make players around me better."

NHL Network analyst and Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Stevens said Subban has looked a lot more comfortable in recent weeks.

"He's engaged and has been a leader out there for these guys and that's what he has to do," the Devils former captain and three-time Stanley Cup champion said on Saturday. "He's finally realizing he can be a mentor and he can really teach some of these young players. He's been battling hard and playing hard and starting to get rewarded for his efforts."

The Devils entered the season with Stanley Cup Playoff aspirations after selecting center Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and acquiring Subban from the Predators and forward Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights. But their early struggles ultimately led to the firing of coach John Hynes, who was replaced by Alain Nasreddine on Dec. 3, and the trading of pending unrestricted free agent forward Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 16. The Devils fired general manager Ray Shero on Jan. 12 and replaced him with Tom Fitzgerald, who was assistant GM, on an interim basis. 

Video: NJD@CHI: Subban hammers slap shot past Crawford

"And I think that for me throughout my career I've always been on playoff teams, you know what I mean, and been in a position where the postseason is clear," Subban said. "So, when those seasons come where its ups and downs, it's not easier to handle them but you have to handle them the right way. 

"And I think that that's the most important thing is that this is a young team. It's not just about your personal game and what you're doing, it's about developing and, for me, you know I'm here and I'm buying into what we have here as a team and doing my best to move us forward as a team."

Subban said one of his greatest attributes has been to make others around him, better, but that's an area he still needs to work on with the Devils. 

"I don't think I've done that as consistently this season," he said. "I think I can do a better job of that but I'm also still getting to know my teammates and understand how guys want to play, what guys like, where they want the puck, all those things. 

"I can tell you this ... it's been a real fun year playing with these guys. They come to the rink every day, want to work. There aren't too many nights you watch the Devils play and say we got out-worked."

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