MONTREAL -- It may be the home opener for the Montreal Canadiens, but Wednesday night's game at the Bell Centre will be a big homecoming for many members of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Aside from the Lightning's Quebec contingent of Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and newcomer Simon Gagne, the brand new coaching staff of Guy Boucher and assistants Dan Lacroix and Martin Raymond will be competing against the organization that gave them their first shot in professional hockey.
While Boucher admitted in a conference call earlier this week that he'll have to fight off some emotions for the game, he suggested Wednesday morning that once the final buzzer sounds he may allow those emotions to take over.
"Talk to me after the game," Boucher said when asked to address his emotional state.
It's understandable for Boucher to feel a tingling of some sort walking into the Bell Centre, a building he hoped to one day call his office while winning AHL coach of the year honors with Canadians affiliate Hamilton last season.
But with Jacques Martin firmly in place behind the Canadiens bench, even before leading the team on last year's three-round playoff run, Boucher had to look elsewhere to fulfill his NHL dream.
So he landed in Tampa, plucked off the coaching free agent market by new GM Steve Yzerman, and his players are impressed with what they've seen so far.
"He understands that players are people," said Lightning center Dominic Moore, a former Canadien who is also experiencing a homecoming of sorts. "So if you want to get the most of a player, it wouldn't be a bad idea to get to know him."
It has often been said of Boucher that his techniques are so innovative, so outside the box, that they would never work at the NHL level.
Vincent Lecavalier admits that Boucher is always pulling something new out of his toolbox.
"There's a moment like that every day," he said. "Just an example, a lot of coaches will go up to the board and draw up plays or explain what he wants us to do. But he'll do that, and then ask you to repeat what he just explained. It's almost like you're in school, and I've gotten the answer wrong a few times. So you really don't have any choice but to listen."
On the Canadiens side, Martin will welcome back veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik, who missed all of training camp and the first two games of the regular season with a knee injury.
"I wish I could have played some preseason games, but there's nothing you can do about it now," Hamrlik said. "I talked to the coaches and I don't think they're going to kill me in my first game."
So expect Hamrlik to play limited minutes while skating alongside Ryan O'Byrne.