One is a former Canadien, one grew up in Montreal, and the other fits into both categories.
National Hockey League players are often asked what their favorite city to play a road game is, and more often than not, their answer is Montreal. The atmosphere at the Bell Centre is just that much different from any other NHL barn, and the players really enjoy having that kind of experience. For three current Nashville Predators, Thursday’s road contest in La Belle Province has a deeper meaning than just another game.
For Sergei Kostitsyn, J.P. Dumont, and Francis Bouillon that atmosphere will be just one piece of a game that will mean much more than just 1/82 of their team’s regular season schedule.
Kostitsyn’s three seasons in Montreal were turbulent to say the least. The offseason trade that sent him to Nashville gave him a new opportunity in a new city. So far this season, he has two goals and an assist while averaging 10:50 of ice time in 12 games played.
The Belarusian admitted that his return to Montreal is something he has been looking forward to for a while.
“A little bit, but it is still a regular game for me,” he said. “I’m trying to play my best every game, so it is not going to be different in Montreal. I play for the team and try to get two points.”
Thursday not only represents a game against his former team, but it will also be his first professional game played against his brother Andrei, who is off to a fast start to the 2010-11 season with seven goals and seven assists in 18 games.
Asked if there has been any friendly trash-talking with his brother leading up to the game, Kostitsyn gave a somewhat surprising answer.
“We never talk about hockey outside the rink,” he said.
During his time with the Buffalo Sabres, trips to his hometown were a regular occurrence for Dumont. In his fifth season in Nashville, he has had to adjust to playing in Montreal every other year under the NHL’s current schedule format.
“Especially now that it is every two years, it is definitely a lot of fun to play in front of my parents, my sisters, my niece and nephews,” he said. “It is going to be great to see my family. At the same time, it is always special to go play back home.”
Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz doesn’t think that performing in front of some familiar faces will prove to be a distraction for his players.
“Actually, I think guys want to perform in front of family and friends,” Trotz said. “That has never been an issue for me.”
He then paused and issued a joking caveat.
“It depends what their friends are like though I guess, what kind of friends you keep,” he said.
For a guy who plays each and every shift with passion, it is not surprising that Thursday’s game will mean a lot since it is being played in the city Bouillon calls home against the team he gave his heart and soul to for nine seasons.
“It is going to be really exciting for me,” Bouillon said. “It is going to be emotional too. Especially for me, I played nine-ten years there and had some great times. To play in front of my friends, my family there, it is going to be a really great time.”
He expects to have in excess of 20 family and friends cheering him Thursday.
“It is a great hockey town,” the defenseman said. “To wear another jersey, to jump on that ice there, it is going to be emotional.”
One would think that after spending nine years in the same workplace Bouillon would be pretty familiar with the Bell Centre, but he confesses to the fact that he will need a little help from his current teammates when they enter the building.
“To be honest, I have never seen the other locker room, so I don’t really know where it is,” Bouillon said with a laugh. “I am going to follow some of the other players who know where to go.”