It's been a long time coming for Mike Ribeiro
The Dallas Stars
center will play his first regular-season game in his hometown since he was traded away in 2006 by the Montreal Canadiens
, and he can't wait.
"I'm excited to see the atmosphere in the building again," Ribeiro said Tuesday morning. "Maybe they forgot me, it's been so long."
Ribeiro was injured the only other time the Stars played at Bell Centre since he was traded for defenseman Janne Niinimaa
on Sept. 30, 2006, though he did play in a preseason game here in September.
"It's been six years," said Ribeiro, who turned 32 on Feb. 10. "If I look back on my career there are some things I'd like to do over again, and I think everyone in their lives can look back at things they'd like to improve. But I'm looking to the future, and what's in the past is in the past."
Ribeiro thrived almost immediately upon his arrival in Dallas, while Niinimaa played just 41 games in a Canadiens uniform. The deal widely is panned by Canadiens fans as one of team's the worst in recent years.
"I'm sure they know they made a mistake, but who would have said I would play this way?" Ribeiro said. "I'm coming back to Montreal in front of my friends and people I grew up with, so I'll try to play well and I'll try to score tonight."
He feels the constant pressure the Canadiens are under from their fans and the media to produce a winner led to him being traded, and it affects the franchise's ability to wait for their young players to reach their full potential.
"You have to be patient with the young guys, because you get better as you grow and as you learn the game," he said. "A lot of times in Montreal you have to win now and a lot of times kids are not ready to win now, so you get impatient and trade them -- like in my situation -- a little too quickly."
Ribeiro is far from the only former Canadiens player in town with the Stars. He’s joined by his linemate, right wing Michael Ryder
, and defensemen Stephane Robidas
and Sheldon Souray
, who was disappointed he won't be able to suit up as he recovers from a foot injury.
The game also will be special for first-year Stars coach Glen Gulutzan, who grew up a Canadiens fan in Hudson Bay, Sask., and wore the No. 23 jersey of Bob Gainey to school as a kid.
The game is so special he insisted his father, Gene, make the trip to Montreal to attend.
"I've had a few pinchable moments, and this was certainly one of them when we played our exhibition game here," Gulutzan said. "It's not the typical exhibition game with 20-some thousand people in the stands. It's special to come back to Canada, but in Montreal it's a little extra special. It's a little surreal at times."
While players always get up for games against their former teams, Gulutzan feels the Canadiens have a home-ice disadvantage because it's pretty difficult for any player not to get excited to play a game in Montreal.
"You get amped up to play here because it's exciting," Gulutzan said. "It's the talk of the town and the players feel that vibe. I'm sure it's not easy for the home team here because other teams are gunned up and ready."
That certainly will be the case for Gulutzan's top center.