SAN JOSE -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Douglas Murray is braced for an emotional homecoming Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks when he faces his former team for the first time since being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins last March.
"It's special," Murray said after the Canadiens morning skate. "Can't really describe it yet. I think I've got to go through it to understand it. I obviously had a great 7-1/2 years here and loved everything about it. Have a lot of close friends in the area. It's exciting."
The Canadiens had a day off Friday, and Murray visited his former teammates and coaches at practice in San Jose. He and Sharks captain Joe Thornton are close friends, and Murray said he had a chance to see his godson, Thornton's son, River.
"It was nice," Murray said. "Spent a little time."
The Sharks chose Murray in the eighth round of the 1999 NHL Draft. He earned a reputation for being a rugged, stay-at-home defenseman and one of the hardest hitters in hockey.
The Sharks know what to expect from Murray at SAP Center.
"I've seen [Murray] play and hit a lot people pretty hard," Sharks center Logan Couture said. "Hopefully I can skate away from him tonight. It will be fun to play against him. He meant a lot to a lot of guys in this room, myself included. I enjoyed being his teammate for the years I was with him. We definitely miss him around here, as a person and a player."
Murray said he'll have to try to keep his emotions in check against the Sharks.
"I'm weird. I usually try to play harder against my friends because bragging rights are important and pride is important," Murray said. "But I think the biggest thing for me is trying to stay calm and focus on my game and not look to make a big hit because I usually get myself in trouble then. Hopefully with the experience I have I'll try and play a solid game for us and not worry about that. But if I get a chance I'll hit anyone."
The Sharks traded Murray to the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 25 last year for a second-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft and a conditional choice in 2014. That turned out to be a second-rounder when the Penguins reached the Eastern Conference Final in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Murray said it's only natural that he wants to show the Sharks what they're missing, but he also said he has no hard feelings about being traded.
"It's part of the business," said Murray, who was in the final year of his contract and signed with Montreal as a free agent after the season. "I have no animosity or anything with it. It was a hockey trade. The trade wouldn't have happened if our team was playing better at the time. We had a bad stretch of games and I was part of it like everybody else on the team. At the same time, it's a pride thing. You want to win. I'm excited for the game."
The Sharks talked about becoming a faster team when they traded Murray, but he took no offense.
"Anytime you trade me away and add somebody else, you're going to get faster," Murray said, laughing. "I'm not going to argue with that. But you're also getting softer."
Murray was sidelined by an injury Oct. 26 when the Sharks defeated the Canadiens 2-0 at Montreal.
"Nice to see him healthy and playing pretty well for the Canadiens," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Anytime a family member like that leaves your organization you want to see him do well."
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said he understands how special this game will be for Murray.
"Had a lot of success here, and I'm sure he was well respected because he's well respected with us by his teammates," Therrien said. "He's a heart-and-soul guy, he's a tough guy to play against, and this is going to be an emotional game for him."
Here are the projected lineups for San Jose and Montreal:
Therrien said Prust has been cleared medically to play but needs more practice time and will not be in the lineup; He has missed the past six games.
"He wants to play tonight, but we have to use common sense." Therrien said.
Prust will be ready to play Montreal's next game Wednesday at home against the Boston Bruins, according to Therrien.