Marian Hossa said it's just another game. Yeah, and the Titanic was just another ship.
The former Senators winger, traded to the Atlanta Thrashers last August for Dany Heatley, arrived back in Ottawa where he spent the first six full seasons of his NHL career.
And though he tried his best to play down the underlying personal importance of tonight's contest between his Thrashers and ex-Senators buddies at Scotiabank Place, Hossa admitted it might be weird to walk into the building as a member of the enemy squad.
"It's going to be interesting," Hossa said after taking a spin with his Atlanta teammates around the practice ice yesterday at the University of Ottawa's athletic facility.
He joked that he might see his old house when the team bus rolls toward Kanata on the Queensway.
But in reality, the game will be huge for both Hossa and Heatley, who requested a trade during the summer to get away from Atlanta and the reminder of the car crash that killed his friend and teammate, Dan Snyder.
Atlanta coach Bob Hartley, a Hawkesbury native making a homecoming of his own, said he expects both Hossa and Heatley to be keyed up.
"When you play against your old organization, it's easy to prepare and easy to give a little bit more," he said.
In one of the most significant trades in Senators history, the club dealt Hossa and defenceman Greg de Vries to the Thrashers for Heatley last Aug. 23.
'GREAT HOCKEY TRADE'
"It was a great hockey trade," said Hartley. "But more importantly, it was a trade of life. We gave Dany Heatley a chance to restart."
The move rocked the world of Hossa, who had earlier in the summer asked for a hefty salary increase to $21 million (all terms US) over three years.
The Senators eventually signed Hossa to a $18-million, three-year deal and avoided arbitration, but traded him later the same day.
"It's kind of surprising the way they handled the whole thing," said Hossa. "At least they could have told me before, but they didn't.
"On the other hand, it's a business and I understand that, but things have worked out for both of the players."
In January, Heatley made his return to Atlanta where many Thrashers fans booed their former franchise leader each time he touched the puck.
Hossa said he's not concerned about the reaction Senators fan deliver tonight.
"What the people are going to do, they're going to do. That's not my problem. I cannot handle those things. I can only handle how I play."
Thrashers centre Marc Savard, an Orleans native, said he hopes Ottawa fans show Hossa some love.
"For what he's done for the (Senators) franchise, I would hope he's received well," said Savard, who's second on Atlanta with 70 points.
"He's a quiet, good guy. Hopefully, they'll cheer him on."
Thrashers veteran Scott Mellanby predicted the Ottawa fans would welcome back Hossa, who scored 201 goals in the regular season and playoffs for the Senators.
"I know he's got some real special feelings for the city and for the fans and for the team," said Mellanby. "It's going to be a special night for him.
"He's played so well for us, and I'm sure he'll get a good reception."
Hossa ranks third on the Thrashers in scoring, behind Ilya Kovalchuk (71 points) and Savard, with 28 goals and 65 points.
"Now that we have him, we use him to his full value," said Hartley. "On a personal note, I think in my seven years in the NHL, I would rank him second or third in the most complete players that I've coached."