Might newly re-signed Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban get a bit of a frosty reception when he joins up with the team in Ottawa tomorrow?
Several veterans offered measured responses to Subban's decision to end his contract holdout after four games - he signed a two-year, $5.75-million deal late Monday - when they offered any reaction at all.
After the Habs' morning skate defenceman Andrei Markov said he would only be taking question on the game pitting Montreal and the resurgent Winnipeg Jets at the Bell Centre on Tuesday (7:30 pm, RDS, TSN-Habs).
Fellow blueliner Josh Gorges, Subban's defence partner for most of last year, was similarly circumspect when asked what kind of welcome the 23-year-old may receive and whether he may need to make amends of sorts.
"That's a tough question, I've never been through this. I've never been on a team where someone has held out, and wasn't here for the start of camp . . . this is going to be a learning experience for me on how to handle it, how to deal with it, we're all going to do this together and we'll take it in stride, I guess," he said.
Subban won't be in the lineup against the Jets, but the game does represent a homecoming of sorts for another man who was a fixture behind the Canadiens' bench, former assistant coach Perry Pearn, who also happened to be Subban's position coach.
Pearn caught on with the Jets after being relieved of his duties in Montreal last season - a decision announced to him just a couple of hours before the puck drop.
"I'm still not over it," he said, tongue firmly in cheek. "It's getting to that stage of the season, 5-6 games in, so I'm a little nervous."
In truth, Pearn has no reason to be, quite the opposite in fact.
Winnipeg is riding a three-game winning streak - as are the Habs - and has jumped out to a 3-1-1 start.
The Jets are the least-penalized team in the NHL to this point in the season, and the Habs have scored seven goals on the power-play in four games, which suggests an intriguing match-up (Winnipeg is also surely aware that the Habs have the third-best even-strength goal-per-game average in the league).
"Two Canadian teams, both passionate in their cities . . . it should be a good game, both teams are playing well and there's a lot of similarities right now so it should be fun," said Jets coach Claude Noel.
The Franco-Ontarian Noel wasn't comfortable giving interviews in French on the Jets' maiden visit to Montreal last year, but on the strength of Tuesday's lengthy media scrum - in French at least as fluent as that of former Habs coach Jacques Martin - he needn't have been.
And if Noel is more comfortable in Montreal this time around, he'll hope his team is too. The Jets lost both meetings at the Bell Centre last year, and will be looking to rebound.
"We want to be better on the road this year, this is a good opportunity to show we can be," he said.Report Typo/Error