Subban present for Predators morning skate

P.K. Subban hasn’t played a game for the Nashville Predators since December 15 due to an upper-body injury. One January 1st, he was placed on the IR, with the team saying he’d be re-evaluated in two-to-three weeks.

Well, the two-week mark is approaching and while its still unknown as to when exactly the Predators defenseman will return to the ice, there was glimmer of hope on Thursday morning when the 27-year-old was present for the optional morning skate Nashville held ahead of its home game against Boston on Thursday night.

Subban won’t play Thursday and the timetable for his return still is unknown, but him being on the ice for the morning skate is at the very least a reason for optimism.

The Predators have gone 5-4-3 in the 12 games Subban has missed. Nashville is one point out of the second Wildcard spot in the Western Conference with 43 points, good for 10th place in the conference standings.

With Subban in the lineup, however, it wasn’t like the Preds were world-beaters, with a 13-12-4 record in the 29 games prior to Subban being sidelined, all of which Subban was in the lineup for. A team expected to be a contender in the West in the aftermath of trades for Ryan Johansen (last January) and Subban in addition to pushing eventual Stanley Cup finalist San Jose to a seventh game in the 2016 Western Conference semifinals, Nashville has been one of the bigger disappointments in the league this season. While he’s averaged more than 25 minutes of ice-time per night and had 17 points in the 29 games he’s played, Subban was a team-low minus-11.

Subban has never played fewer than 68 games in a season since breaking into the league on 2010.

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Rise of Ryan Ellis Helps Predators Get Back on Track

Trading Shea Weber is easy when a player like P.K. Subban – a No. 1 defenseman as dynamic a player as any in the NHL – is one the other side of the transaction wire. Replacing Weber – a rugged, take-no-prisoners, do-everything, play-in-every-situation, no-nonsense big voice in the room, and oh by the way one of the best blue liners in the game – is another story.

The Nashville Predators learned just that early in the season as they stumbled off the starting blocks to a 2-4 start to the season. The once-airtight defense patrolled by Weber in Nashville allowed five-plus goals in three of those games.

Since a 6-1 loss in Anaheim on October 26 that rendered Nashville its fourth loss in six games, its been a return to normalcy for the Predators. The Preds have picked up points in nine of 12 games (6-3-3), allowing 27 goals in 12 games (2.25 per game) after giving up 21 through six (3.5). They’ve allowed just one powerplay goal on 33 chances over the last 10 games, in which the Predators have gone 6-2-2.

The 12-game stretch in which Nashville has climbed back on the map – now one point behind Minnesota in the Western Conference wildcard picture with two days to go before the world famous Thanksgiving Checkpoint – has come hand-in-hand with the expansion of the role of defenseman Ryan Ellis in Peter Laviolette’s gameplan.

Ellis has heavily factored into the Nashville’s lineup all season. He’s part of a heavily-relied upon top-four that also includes Subban, Roman Josi, and Mattias Ekholm, in which at least one has been on the ice for 84.5 percent of the Predators 1,082 faceoffs this season, according to PuckBase. Two have been on the ice for 82.5 percent.

 

In the last 12 games, there’s been a slight uptick in the ice-time of the defenseman who plays much bigger than his 5-10, 180-pound dimensions suggest.

While his usage over that span remains third among Predators defensemen behind Josi and Subban, Ellis has averaged 24:02, up from 23:11 over the first six games. In Monday’s 3-1 win over Tampa Bay, he averaged a game-high 25:30 while assisting one all three goals. It was the second time Ellis has led the Predators in time-on-ice this season, an honor that has largely gone to either Josi or Subban, as expected prior to the season.

In addition to the 23:44 overall average of ice-time for Ellis this season, he’s playing a team-high 2:48 shorthanded, on the ice for 62 of the 102 shorthanded faceoffs, according to PuckBase. That’s a similar rate as Weber’s dependency in the situation last season, on the ice for 292 of the Predators 442 man-down draws.

When Ellis and Josi are paired together on the ice, the Predators have outscored opponents 9-7 in five-on-five situations in 223 minutes together, according to corsica. Subban and Ekholm, the other pairing that has seen a bulk of five-on-five time (228:42), have been outscored, 9-6.

Ellis is a much different player than Weber. Weber is a 6-4, 232-pound behemoth who uses his size to set a physical tone among a bevy of other good things he does inside the glass. Ellis comes up short size-wise by six inches and 52 pounds. Any physical shortcomings he makes up for with good positioning, speed, and a good stick. Ellis doesn’t have the responsibilities Weber was pegged with for much of his time in Nashville.

When it comes to replacing Shea Weber, the Predators haven’t done so with adding more meat to the plate of Josi, or making Subban play outside his strengths of risk-taking and aggressive play. It’s been a quartet of strong blue liners starting with the two heavy-lifters followed by Ellis and Ekholm. It’s a new-age corps that predicates itself on speed, puck movement, and being a part of the rush.

The transition started with the trading of Weber for a player in Subban whose play suited that new style, having faith in Josi being an elite No. 1 defenseman.

The rise of Ellis is the latest step in making it complete.

 

Stat of the Day: Shea Weber Leads NHL in Goal Scoring Among Defensemen since 2005

While he came at the expense of P.K. Subban, defenseman Shea Weber has been a tremendous acquisition for the Montreal Canadiens.

In seven games, Weber has three goals and nine points while averaging 25:59 of ice time per night. His plus-12 rating leads the NHL; the next-closest is Detroit forward Darren Helm, with nine. The Canadiens are out to a 6-0-1 start.

Weber’s greatness, of course, is no secret. Prior to arriving in Montreal, he spent 11 seasons in Nashville. Over the 11-plus seasons, he’s scored 169 goals, which is tops among all NHL season going back to his 2006 debut. The output, which has come in 770 games, leads second-best Dustin Byfuglien (152) by 17.

Only Chicago blue liner Duncan Keith – who has multiple Stanley Cups and Norris Trophies to his credit – and the recently-retired Dan Boyle have more points than Weber’s 452 since he came into the league. However, he’ll become second in short time, as he sits just two points behind Boyle. Keith is 12 points ahead of Weber, with 464.

Two things Weber doesn’t have (through no fault of his own)? A Stanley Cup and a Norris Trophy. Who knows, both could be crossed off the list this year.

#HatTrickChallenge and Locks for Friday

First things first – let’s give a warm welcome to the #HatTrickChallenge. It’s basically the Bucci Overtime Challenge but well, with a hat tricks. Feel free to join in on Twitter.

So here’s the first-ever #HatTrickChallenge: Travis Konency, Philadelphia. Adding to the great week its been for rookies, the 19-year-old puts up three against a good Kings defense and backup netminder Jeff Zatkoff.

Konency is a stud. Undersized, intense kid who plays with bite and can score. Basically someone born to be a Flyer. He’ll be on the wing, and is expected to skate alongside Jake Voracek and Sean Couturier. The 2015 first round pick spent the last three years in the OHL, in which he scored 85 goals between the Ottawa 67s and the Sarnia Sting.

Game of the night – Chicago at Nashville: Goes without saying. The league’s preeminent power against a team that is a trendy Stanley Cup pick. Oh, and P.K. Subban is playing his first game in Nashville.

Lock to win of the night – Calgary: No way the Flames get swept by their intrastate rivals to begin the season. Brian Elliott, defense tightens up Glen Gulutzan gets his first win on the Calgary bench.