As the days slowly got closer to the one when David Perron would have to face his former team for the first time since being traded, the Edmonton Oilers forward admitted there would be plenty of foreign feelings.
"I'm not even sure how it's going to be, to be honest," Perron said earlier this week. "What I know is the day of and the night before I'm going to try and make it as normal of a game as possible so I can focus on the actual game itself."
Ready or not here come the St. Louis Blues, the franchise that selected Perron with the 26th pick of the 2007 NHL Draft and with whom the Sherbrooke, Quebec native spent the first six seasons of his NHL career. Perron had 84 goals and 198 points with the Blues.
The teams will play for the first time this season Saturday (10 p.m. ET, CBC) at Rexall Place, and Perron is stoked about it.
"Facing these guys will be pretty cool and pretty special at the same time," said Perron, acquired by the Oilers on July 10 for Magnus Paajarvi and a 2014 second-round draft pick. "I had six good years there and made the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs three times with that team. I learned a lot as a player and as a person and they were some good years of my life.
"The best part is that [the trade] happened over the summer. I think it would be really tough if I was traded during the year and then two weeks or something went by and then I faced them. That would be really weird. I would be worried that I would go on the wrong bench on changes. But at this point it's almost half a season."
Perron is settling in nicely with his new team. After starting the season chipping in slowly, Perron has picked it up of late. Despite a current four-game streak without point, Perron was on a 15-point binge in a 12-game span that saw him score 10 of his 14 goals.
"It's going well actually," Perron said. "I started well in preseason and I kept rolling from there. The first 10 games maybe less goals or whatever, but I'm just trying to improve every year as a player. Other than last year with the lockout year I was doing a good job of that every year that I have been playing.
"… I didn't really feel good all season last year. I kind of ran out of gas right before the playoffs. This year I think it's another step I hopefully keep taking every year in my career. The only thing that's missing is the team success this year. It's pretty hard this year. We're probably losing three games out of four and St. Louis is like the opposite. It's definitely frustrating that way, but there's 30 teams in the League that are trying to win the Stanley Cup. No one feels sorry for us. We have to try and figure it out."
Perron was planning on visiting and having dinner with some of his former teammates that he grew close to, including Blues captain David Backes, but as of Friday morning it was unknown if Backes would travel with the Blues after missing his second straight game Thursday because of upper-body injury.
"I talked to a couple guys already so far this year," Perron said. "I talked to Backes about having dinner and a few of the other guys too. It will be fun to see them again. The thing I know about [Backes] is once the puck drops he won't remember whether we're buddies or not. He's going to go just as hard. That's the way we have to approach it."
T.J. Oshie, drafted 24th by the Blues in 2005, grew up in the Blues organization with Perron and admitted seeing him in an Oilers jersey will be an adjustment.
"It's going to be real weird," Oshie said. "It's definitely going to be a battle. I can imagine he's going to be up for that game. When [Perron] wants to play hard you can't take the puck from him, I don't care how strong the guy is. It's going to be difficult but it's going to be a fun one to go against."
Perron went through a similar down time with the Blues before they developed into an elite team. Now he's faced with helping a young Oilers squad rise to the top. Perron said the pinnacle will be nice for the Oilers and he's looking forward to being a big part of it.
"It's different. I'm definitely getting a lot of opportunities," Perron said. "I'm on the power play, [penalty kill], I'm playing 4-on-4 every single time.
"In St. Louis I felt like even in overtime I wasn't getting out there as much, and here it's pretty much 4-on-4 I'm out there every time. It's a lot of fun and when the confidence is there you're obviously playing better hockey. I felt like I could produce the same way in St. Louis. I did it when I came back from a long injury [concussion]. I felt like I could do it in that system too and I feel like I still could, but I have that here.
"We grew up in St. Louis and it took three or four years. Once you make the playoffs you don't go from being out of the playoffs to winning the Cup. That's been going on now for three or four years in St. Louis and I think it's going to be the same thing here. It's going to take some time. … I'm interested to see where we're going to be in a couple of years. We have to work hard. It's not just going to happen. We have to work for it."
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