PITTSBURGH--When the Colorado Avalanche practiced at PPG Paints Arena on Monday, it was the first time that Ian Cole was back on the building's ice since he was traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Ottawa Senators last February.
He will play his first game in his old club's arena on Tuesday when the Avs take on the Penguins for the second time in seven days.
Cole spent parts of four seasons with Pittsburgh and won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships with the squad in 2015-16 and 2016-17. He played in 47 games with the Penguins last year before being sent to the Senators on Feb. 23 and then to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 26.
"Obviously I had a lot of history here in Pittsburgh," Cole said after the practice. "I am sure it's going to be probably a little emotional at the time, but I think overall you do your best to kind of treat it like any other game, even though it's not going to be any other game. But, you try your best.
"It's always a little nerve-wracking playing your old team especially at their rink. So we will see how it goes, hopefully we put together a good game."
Cole has faced the Penguins twice since he was traded last February, most recently in Colorado's 6-3 win over Pittsburgh last Wednesday in Denver.
He finished that game with three blocked shots and one shot attempt in 22:38 of ice time, including 3:02 while on the penalty kill.
Having experience in facing his former team before, Cole can use that to help make it feel more familiar and relieve some anxieties that come with returning in your old barn.
"I have played them twice now since I got traded, but first time back here," Cole added. "I am sure it will be probably a little bit more nerve-wracking, but they are a great hockey team and certainly a dangerous hockey team. It's going to be a challenge and something that we are excited for."
So far, Cole and the Avalanche have shown that they are up to the challenge. Of Colorado's 37 points, 22 have come on the road and Cole has done his part at both sides of the ice.
He has eight points (one goal, seven assists) after 27 games, ranking fourth among Avs D-men. He leads the club with 48 penalty minutes and 79 blocked shots, the latter of which is also first in the NHL.
After missing the Avalanche's last four games with a lower-body injury, defenseman Tyson Barrie could be back in the lineup for Colorado's game at Pittsburgh.
"I think he should be a player for us tomorrow," said head coach Jared Bednar. "We will see how he gets through today's practice, but he should be a player for us tomorrow."
It was Barrie's second day of being a full participant in an on-ice session with the team after also partaking in Colorado's morning skate on Sunday in Detroit in a regular practice jersey.
The 27-year-old leads Avalanche blueliners with 20 points (three goals, 17 assists) through 23 games this campaign.
Defenseman Samuel Girard on playing 100 NHL games: "I think my confidence is better day after day, so [the] more I am going to play, [the] more I am going to be confident on the ice. I am pretty happy about the way that I am playing right now, and I am going to have to keep going to make sure that I use my qualities on the ice."
Video: Samuel Girard on playing in 100 NHL contests
Defenseman Ian Cole on how the Avs can win in Pittsburgh: "We need to stay on these guys. We don't want to take our foot off the gas. We got a little lead last time and maybe took our foot off the gas a little bit. We are going to try to continue to play with the lead and continue to get better at doing that."
Video: Ian Cole on returning to Pittsburgh
Head Coach Jared Bednar on Mikko Rantanen: "Mikko is a younger player, still trying to establish himself, but the follow up year he is having this year to last year's season I think is pretty impressive."
Video: Jared Bednar after practice in Pittsburgh
Practice Line Combinations
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Tyson Jost - J.T. Compher - Sven Andrighetto
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Matt Calvert
Vladislav Kamenev - Alexander Kerfoot - Gabriel Bourque
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth - Nikita Zadorov
Maintenance Days: Semyon Varlamov, Colin Wilson