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Saku Koivu has enjoyed many memorable games in a lengthy NHL career, but he knows No. 913 will belong near the top of that list.
The Anaheim Ducks forward heads back to Montreal for the first time as a member of the opposition on Saturday. The native of Turku, Finland, played his first 13 NHL seasons with the Canadiens before leaving via free agency in the summer of 2009.
"It's not going to be [just] another game," Koivu told CBCSports.ca on Thursday. "It's obviously going to be a special couple days in the weekend. When the season started it was far away, end of January, it felt like I had all kinds of time for that, but now it's [here].
"Obviously I think about it and I'm getting nervous about it, but it's going to be a fun one - the game and the weekend and obviously going to see a lot of friends that are close to me."
Ups and downs
Selected by Montreal in the first round (21st overall) of the 1993 NHL draft, Koivu won the Bill Masterton Trophy following the 2001-02 season.
The honour followed his battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, as he returned to the ice just seven months after he was diagnosed in September 2001. He received overwhelming support from the Canadiens faithful during his bout with cancer.
He was named Habs captain on Sept. 30, 1999, a capacity in which he served until leaving. His best season came during the 2006-07 campaign when he set career highs in goals (22), assists (53) and points (75).
The vagaries of the NHL schedule have the 36-year-old making his first appearance back nearly two years after leaving. That's a lifetime in hockey terms - Andrei Markov's has endured about four injuries since then and the relationship between Carey Price and the fans has evolved at least that many times.
Maxim Lapierre, by contrast, comes back to Montreal just nine games into his Anaheim tenure.
"It's weird, it's my hometown too," said Lapierre. "I've got to put the emotion on the side and play my game. We need the two points as a team."
While he wasn't overly surprised by the Dec. 31 deal, Lapierre said the impact of being traded for the first time was blunted by having Koivu, as well as former Habs and AHL teammate Kyle Chipchura, at his new NHL home.
Lapierre has one assist in eight games with the Ducks.
"It's going to take some time for him to really feel comfortable and getting used to the system," said Koivu. "It took me a long time last year. At this point he just has to be really patient and work, and he'll find it."
If the emotional lift of Koivu's return isn't enough, Anaheim should be smarting after a 5-2 loss in Toronto. It was a rare bad performance in recent weeks, during which the rest of the Ducks have pulled up their straps in the absence of captain Ryan Getzlaf.
The Ducks take on Montreal as part of Hockey Night in Canada (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
Night in, night out, Jesse Winchester is the best player on the ice for the Senators. It has been that way for awhile now too.
A couple of unique stories 42 years ago this weekend involving some familiar NHL builders who are still involved to this day in advisory roles.
Cliff Fletcher, under the auspices of Scotty Bowman, begins the process of trying to get the transfer of three Czech players for the St. Louis Blues. Jaroslav Jirik would end up playing three games in the 1969-70 season, becoming the first from his country - and the Iron Curtain as a whole - to play in the NHL.
Meanwhile, Minnesota North Stars general manager Wren Blair is a winner in his first game back behind the bench. Blair replaced a first-time NHL coach who wasn't ready for prime time.
The 34-year-old who went 6-23-6 on a Stars team that included Cesare Maniago, Danny Grant and J.P. Parise? John Muckler.
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