Jamie Langenbrunner holds no ill will toward his former team, the New Jersey Devils (25-30-4), for trading him on January 7.
But he still wants to beat them.
"Obviously, they're playing well," Langenbrunner told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "Any team that's playing well, you've got to make it hard on them. You can't make it easy for them. They're obviously playing with a lot of confidence. A lot of guys that earlier in the year might have missed opportunities are now catching pucks going in the net again and that's great."
Langenbrunner and the struggling Dallas Stars (31-22-6) take on the surging Devils tonight at the American Airlines Center.
A split between the Devils and Langenbrunner was a long time coming. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello asked the former captain to waive his no-trade clause during the preseason. That move, Langenbrunner said, affected his play significantly.
"I regretted how I let it affect me," he told Gulitti. "For me, when they ask that, thinking that they didn't want me there anymore, I let it affect me more than I should have instead of just playing hockey. For that reason, it might have been better for me to go when they asked originally or for me to deal with it better. So, that's part of learning nad part of figuring out how your mind reacts to things."
Lamoriello said the trade was nothing personal.
"No one should try to read anything into it," Lamoriello said to Gulitti. "We simply had made a decision that we weren't going to re-sign him and wanted to give other players an opportunity. What it's done is it's given Brian Rolston a chance to play in a spot where he fits better and allowed young players such as Mattias Tedenby and Nick Palmieri to have more of a chance to further their development."
Tonight's reunion underscores an important game for both teams. The Stars, just 2-9-1 in their last 12 games, fell into a four-way tie for the eighth spot in the Western Conference. They've lost four in a row, dropping their most recent game, 5-2, to the Vancouver Canucks.
The Devils are on a torrid 15-1-2 stretch that put them right back into the Eastern Conference playoff race. When they traded Langenbrunner, the Devils were an afterthought for the playoffs. With seven straight wins, New Jersey moved itself within 10 points of the Carolina Hurricanes for the eighth seed in the East.
New Jersey extended its win streak with a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night. The Devils jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period, putting the 'Canes in an insurmountable hole. That defeat was the Devils third win over Carolina in 11 days.
In an effort to improve their playoff chances, the Stars acquired Alex Goligoski from the Pittsburgh Penguins for James Neal and Matt Niskanen.
Despite being traded earlier this season, Langenbrunner hopes the Devils complete their miracle comeback.
"I'm definitely rooting for them," Langenbrunner told Gulitti. "I have a lot of extremely close friends there and what a story if they could come all the way back and get in. That doesn't mean I'm going to hand them two points on Tuesday. We need them pretty bad too. But I'll be excited to see them and excited to play against them."