Some players wait weeks, months or even full seasons before they get to face their former team after departing for one reason or another. For defenseman Mark Barberio, the reunion comes just five days after he was claimed off waivers by the Colorado Avalanche.
Tonight, the Avs are hosting the Montreal Canadiens, a squad Barberio spent parts of the last two campaigns playing for.
While it isn't his first time facing a former flame, Barberio did admit that the meeting has inspired some unusual feelings.
"It's going to be different, I think. You go to battle with the same guys every night for two seasons and the next thing you know, you got to go up against them," he said following Monday's practice at Family Sports Center. "But it's something I've done before. Last year when I first got called up for Montreal, I played my first game against Tampa, which was my former team. So that was kind of awkward too, but at the end of the day you have a job to do, and that's to go out and win the hockey game."
Video: Barberio prepares to face former team
The 6-foot-1, 207-pound blueliner knows there is a time to reconnect with friends and a time to forget all allegiances not tied to the crest on the front of his sweater. Tuesday's matchup will focus more heavily on the latter.
"It's our job. We got to go out there. It's 60 minutes. There are no friends," he said. "There's no holding back. You got to play to win the game, obviously. Afterward, you can go back to being friends and talking with the guys. While the game is going on, there are no friendships, as the old saying goes."
One benefit of taking on his old club is that the anxiety of the approaching match is quickly abated. Another is that Montreal's way of doing things is still freshly emblazoned upon his memory, and he can therefore offer up any semblance of a weakness for the Avalanche to exploit.
"There aren't many secrets anymore, but if there's anything in terms of systems, obviously I know what their tactics are," said Barberio. "In the end, I feel like there's so much video done that opposing coaches know what to expect, and it comes down to execution. A team that executes makes the least mistakes."
Obviously, Barberio is new to the team, so an adjustment period to the new location, fresh system and unfamiliar teammates is expected. That said, he hit the ground skating in his first game in an Avalanche jersey and is ready to do it again Tuesday.
Video: Bednar updates media on Avs before Montreal game
"I'm feeling good. A win is always nice. It's great to get the first win out of the way with the new team, with the new group," he said. "We have a good group of guys here. Everybody has made me feel real welcome. So I'm feeling good."
One thing he isn't accustomed to dealing with is the altitude. At 5,280 feet above sea level in some areas, Denver presents a unique challenge to incoming athletes.
"I'm still getting used to that. I think the key there is to make sure my shifts are short to make sure I don't let fatigue set in," Barberio admitted. "[Strength and conditioning coach Casey Bond] has been telling me to make sure my hydration is good and maybe up my carbohydrate intake, too. I even felt it today, your legs get heavy a bit quicker."
Coming off of Saturday's 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets, one of Colorado's most complete games of the season, the team will attempt to replicate the good things it did, both offensively and defensively.
"That was awesome. That was pretty much a complete game by the guys," said defenseman Fedor Tyutin, who could be available to return to the lineup after missing three games with a groin injury. "[Calvin Pickard] played outstanding in the net. We're going to try to follow that up.
"It's simple. We got to play good defense. Everybody knows how to play, we just got to play… smarter with our puck decisions and things like that."
Video: Fedor Tyutin returns to Avalanche practice
Solid defensive play doesn't end with the rear guards, either. In head coach Jared Bednar's system, the forward line is expected to provide assistance in its own zone as well.
"Defensively, it's everybody. It's not just the D-men," Barberio said. "I thought our forwards did a great job of backchecking and coming back hard to the slot and keeping [Winnipeg's] chances to the outside. When they did get some chances, [Calvin Pickard] was there with some pretty key saves. We just need a full-team effort again for 60 minutes."
It's no secret that the last meeting between these two squad's was a lopsided contest, but that's not something Colorado is focusing on.
"You know what, we kind of buried that game. There was so much that went wrong with it. No. 1, we got outworked, and No. 2, it was a poor day for us as far as our execution," Bednar said of the 10-1 loss. "They made us look silly that night. My belief is, with some of those games you just got to sweep them under the rug and move on. How we responded out of that, I think it was the most important thing.
"Not that we played a perfect game in Toronto by any means. They had us on the run there a little bit there too, but mentally being fragile at that point, to be able to respond and go in and get a great game out of [Semyon Varlamov] and get a win there the next night was probably the thing we were looking at the most. From then on, we haven't looked back at it."
Things have been up and down since then, but the Avalanche has been trending in the right direction, and it culminated in Saturday's victory.
"We're all aware of our system and stuff. I think we have problems here and there executing our system. The biggest challenge for us is just to be on the same page. So our goal is to progress game-to-game and follow up and get better game-to-game," Tyutin said. "They all know [how to do that]. I'm sure in this day and age, everybody knows. That's kind of sports psychology; you got to stay positive and you got to keep building on good things you've done in previous games, in previous practices, whatever it is."
Calvin Pickard will get the start in net.