Max Pacioretty described his first game back after breaking his neck felt "weird."
The Montreal Canadiens forward, injured when he was hit into a metal stanchion by Boston's Zdeno Chara four months ago, played in the Big Assist charity game in Stamford, Conn., Wednesday. It was his first game action of any type since he suffered the season-ending broken vertebra.
"It felt – I don't know, I guess it just felt weird," Pacioretty told NHL.com. "It was weird at first, but as the game went on I think I felt a little more comfortable, and I'm looking forward now to gaining some momentum off of that."
Pacioretty skated on a line with Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Matt Moulson of the New York Islanders.
With the experience behind him, Pacioretty is now focused on getting ready for training camp.
"I had a lot of time off since my injury, and now I'm just working on putting on muscle and trying to get as big and as fast as possible," he said. "I've done a pretty good job of that so far and I hope to keep doing that through August."
HE'S NO. 72
Erik Cole knew he'd need to change his number when he signed with the Montreal Canadiens.
The No. 26 he wore with the Carolina Hurricanes was already taken by defenceman Josh Gorges, who wasn't about to part with it. So the veteran forward, who signed with the Habs on July 1, settled for 72, a number he last wore during a season of Junior B with Gananoque in the mid '90s.
"Most people wouldn't know this because it doesn't show up on my stats page, but I played one season in Junior B in Ontario," Cole said on the Candiens website. "My number there was 72 that year so I decided to go back to that.
"I asked Brian Gionta how nice a watch it would cost me to get Josh to give up his number, actually. He never got back to me about that, so I took it as a 'no'. I figured 26 wasn't an option."
The only other player in Canadiens history to wear No. 72 was Mathieu Carle.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall the first day of training camp in Vancouver.
Scrappy forward Mike Duco signed with the Canucks Thursday, a few days after he was traded to the Stanley Cup finalists by the Florida Panthers. That, in itself, isn't exactly big news considering Duco's resume includes no points and 60 penalty minutes in 12 NHL games over two seasons.
But the fact that Duco, a 24-year-old plugger from Toronto, posted a few disparaging comments about the Sedin twins and Roberto Luongo on Twitter during the Canucks' playoff run last season certainly spices things up.
"(S)ick of watching the sedins dive and lay on the ice," Duco tweeted on June 6, before slagging Luongo's shoddy performance in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final a week later.
Duco took steps towards defusing the situation Thursday, apologizing for the comments in an interview with The Sports Network.
"I apologize to all three players involved, everyone knows that they're three world-class players," Duco said. "I feel like it's very important to move on from this. I'm looking forward to possibly being teammates with them. And in any situation, I want them to know that I'm the type of player that goes out and plays hard and I'll have their back no matter what if we're on the same team."
Granted, Duco likely never expected to be traded to the Canucks when he made those comments. But it could make for an awkward moment when he bumps into captain Henrik and brother Daniel for the first time.
Forward Bobby Butler signed a two-year deal with the Ottawa Senators. The 24-year-old split the 2010-11 season between Ottawa and Binghamton of the AHL. recording 10 goals and 11 assists in 36 games with the big club ... The Colorado Avalanche inked defenceman Shane O'Brien to a one-year contract. O'Brien had two goals and seven assists in 80 games with the Nashville Predators last season ... The Philadelphia Flyers signed 2010 draft pick Tye McGinn to an entry-level contract. McGinn, the Flyers' fourth-round pick in '10, had 31 goals and 33 assists with Gatineau of the QMJHL last season ... Forward Jeremy Colliton signed a one-year, two-way contract with the New York Islanders. Colliton had two goals and one assist in 15 games with the Isles but spent most of the serason with Bridgeport of the AHL ... The Florida Panthers inked centre Bracken Kearns to a one-year, two-way deal. Kearns, 30, is a creer minor-leaguer with no NHL games to his credit ... The Washington Capitals renewed their affiliation agreement with South Carolina of the ECHL. South Carolina has been a farm team of the Caps the last eight years ...