Koivu makes return to Montreal

Anaheim forward Saku Koivu at a press conference in Montreal. (ERIC BOLTE/QMI Agency)

Anaheim forward Saku Koivu at a press conference in Montreal. (ERIC BOLTE/QMI Agency)

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, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

Ducks forward Saku Koivu went through a lot during his time with the Montreal Canadiens, from 20-goal seasons to a battle with cancer.

The 36-year-old returns to the Bell Centre tonight for the first time since his departure from the Habs as Anaheim continues a four-game road trip.

Koivu was selected by the Montreal franchise in the first round of the 1993 draft and spent 13 seasons with the club, amassing 191 goals and 450 assists in 792 games. He also served as the Canadiens' captain from 1999-2009 before joining the Ducks as a free agent prior to last season, matching Jean Beliveau as the longest tenured captain in team history.

The Finnish-born center's career with Montreal was interrupted for all but three games in 2001-02 while he recovered from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and the Canadiens faithful gave him a standing ovation up his return to the ice. He is likely to get another positive response tonight.

"It's a very special day," Koivu told Anaheim's website. "Obviously, it was home for us for 14 years. We fell in love with the city. It was a great place for us. We experienced a lot, some good things and some bad things, or unfortunate things. There are a lot of emotional things that happened.

"This is going to be a game, a weekend that I will remember probably for the rest of my life. There are a lot of feelings involved."

Koivu has totaled 30 goals and 46 assists in 120 games since joining the Ducks, including 11 tallies and 13 helpers in 49 contests this season. However, Thursday's 5-2 loss in Toronto marked his seventh straight game without a goal and he has just one in his last 19 games, with seven assists in that span as well.

Dan Sexton and Brandon McMillan scored the goals for Anaheim in its most recent loss, but former Ducks netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 26 saves for the Maple Leafs. Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller, meanwhile, yielded five goals on 37 shots.

"We played about 12 minutes of hockey tonight," said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. "You can't expect to play 12 minutes of hockey and win in the NHL."

In losing for the sixth time in nine road games, Anaheim fell to 1-1 on its current road trip and had a two-game win streak halted as well. The Ducks did lose for just the second time in seven games overall and are sixth in the Western Conference.

Koivu did face the Habs for the first time in an enemy uniform last year, a 4-3 shootout loss in Anaheim. Hiller made 40 saves in his first ever start versus the Canadiens, but was bested twice in the tiebreaker.

Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec had the shootout tallies for Montreal, which snapped a three-game series losing streak but is 0-2 with a tie in its last three at home versus the Ducks.

Plekanec scored twice in last night's 7-1 victory over the Senators, the Canadiens' sixth in their last eight games that moved them just one point back of the Bruins for first place in the Northeast Division.

Andrei Kostitsyn and Max Pacioretty each had a goal and an assist, while Carey Price made 33 saves.

Montreal, which is sixth overall in the Eastern Conference, has won four of its last five at home.

Price has never beaten the Ducks, going 0-2-0 with a 4.20 goals-against average in three games (two starts) against them. Backup Alex Auld is 2-6-0 with a 4.28 GAA against them.


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