Anton Volchenkov still holds fond memories of his time with the Ottawa Senators.
The New Jersey Devils defenseman, who signed with New Jersey as an unrestricted free agent July 1, returns to Scotiabank Place tonight as the Devils (8-17-2) face off against the Senators (12-16-2) in Ottawa.
Volchenkov admitted he's nervous for tonight's game.
"A little bit nervous," the Devils' defenseman said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. "But it's a good nervous. It's not a bad nervous. I'll see friends."
The Senators originally drafted Volchenkov with the 21st overall pick in the 2000 Entry Level NHL Draft. He earned a callup in 2002-2003, playing 57 games in his rookie season. Since then, Volchenkov matured into one of the elite shot blockers in the league.
While the Devils' defenseman was happy to sign with New Jersey, he said his first choice was to remain in Ottawa.
"Any time you play on one team for a long time, you want to stay," Volchenkov said to Gulitti. "These decisions were for Ottawa and for me and I made the decision to sign here."
The return of Volchenkov highlights a matchup of two teams looking to turn their fortunes around. The Devils enter tonight carrying a six game road losing streak. New Jersey sits at 29th in the league and carries one of the worst goal differentials (-30). The team also stands at 14th in the Eastern Conference, 13 points out of a playoff spot. They've continually struggled to score all season long (1.7 goals per game), and many of their scorers are stuck in season-long slumps.
The Senators have multiple issues as well. The team has lost two in a row and enters tonights game with a losing record at home (7-8-0). Their starter tonight, Pascal Leclaire, carries an ugly 3.03 goals-against average into tonight's game.
The Devils did receive good news for tonight's game. Martin Brodeur, out three weeks while nursing an elbow injury, will start tonight's game. It's been a challenging start to the season for the Devils' future Hall-of-Famer, who is 4-10-1 with a .901 save percentage and 2.74 goals-against average, both career-low marks.
Despite the excitement surrounding his return home, Volchenkov realizes the importance of the game.
"Both teams need the points," he said to Gulitti. "It's a big game for both teams."
While Volchenkov still has several friends on the team, those friendships end once he steps on the ice.
"I have good friends outside hockey," the Devil's defenseman said. "On the ice, no friends. You play hockey."