TORONTO--Nazem Kadri has played in 587 National Hockey League contests, but tonight he'll play his first outing at Scotiabank Arena as a member of the visiting squad.
Kadri and the Colorado Avalanche will take on the Maple Leafs in the team's lone visit to Toronto this season. The London, Ontario, native was selected in the first round (seventh overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft by the Leafs, and he spent 10 years with the organization.
"I am trying not to really think too much about it, just trying to let it happen," Kadri said of his return. "Obviously, part of me wants it just over and done with, and another part of me wants to just enjoy the moment because obviously I worked hard for it. Just going to play it by ear."
He recorded 357 points (161 goals, 196 assists) in 561 regular-season outings with the Leafs and had 32 tallies in both 2016-17 and 2017-18 to rank seventh among all NHL centers during that time frame (64 goals).
Colorado acquired the center from Toronto in a six-piece trade on July 1 and while he has adjusted to his new team, being in Scotiabank Arena's visiting room is a little unusual for Kadri.
"I mean definitely a little odd for sure, but I think the guys have helped me fit in well here," said Kadri. "I mean it is a little different, even walking out to the ice from the visiting side I got a little lost, I thought I actually needed a map or something. It's a bit weird, but what are you going to do."
Video: Nazem Kadri on returning to Toronto
Tonight's contest is the first time he is facing the Leafs in Toronto, but it isn't the first time he has played against his old teammates.
Kadri recorded two assists in the first of two matchups this season, a game that the Maple Leafs won 5-3 on Nov. 23 at Pepsi Center. Since then, Colorado has won all three of its games, outscoring its opponents 16-6 in that span.
"It was nice to kind of have the boys (Leafs) in town a couple weeks ago, just to kind of get the feeling a little bit there," said Kadri of facing his old squad. "Obviously nice to keep in touch with those guys, but certainly coming back to Toronto is a little bit of a different feel. Just driving in from the airport, going for a little walk and out for dinner yesterday. I miss the city, but Denver is great also."
So far this campaign, Kadri has registered 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 26 contests. He has won 57.9 percent of his faceoffs and has averaged 17:52 of ice time per game as a reliable second-line center for Colorado.
He has also been on the team's first power-play unit and is tied for third on the Avs with seven man-advantage points (three goals, four assists).
"One thing I really like about him is his competitiveness and sort of that edge that he plays with and how well rounded he is for us," Colorado head coach Jared Bednar said of Kadri. "He has had a real good start to the season for us, he is chipping in in a bunch of different ways and his experience and his leadership and how he has kind of passed that on to our young guys has been great."
Kadri has helped the Avs to a 16-8-2 record and 34 points this season, which ranks third in the Central Division.
"The guys have been so great, the staff has been great also, everyone has been very welcoming and just made this transition a lot easier for me," Kadri said. "I think that is why we are playing so well and why there are some early signs of chemistry, even with the injuries. Guys are getting along and playing well with each other, so hopefully we keep it going."
ROSEN ALSO RETURNS
Colorado also acquired defenseman Calle Rosen from Toronto on July 1, and he will play his first game against the Maple Leafs tonight.
He has played in each of the Avs' previous three games and recorded an assist in his season debut on Nov. 27 against the Edmonton Oilers. Rosen is averaging 15:23 of ice time in those outings.
Video: Calle Rosen talks about playing the Maple Leafs
The Vaxjo, Sweden, native signed with the Maple Leafs as a free agent after spending five seasons playing in the Swedish Hockey League. He was with the Toronto organization for two years and helped the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies win the 2018 Calder Cup and also had a goal and an assist in eight NHL contests.
"I had two great years, got a lot of minutes on the ice last two years," Rosen said. "Helped me a lot for sure to get over to North America at all, so for sure it helped a lot.
"Just excited to get the opportunity to come to Denver and Colorado and be part of this organization. Since [arriving in Denver], everything has been great and I am excited to get some games in a row here now."
Matt Calvert will return to game action tonight after he missed the past six games with a head injury that he suffered in Colorado's contest at the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 16. He will replace Vladislav Kamenev in the lineup, while Kamenev is out with an illness.
Goaltender Philipp Grubauer will be between the pipes for the Avalanche. He has played in five contests against Toronto in his career and owns a 3-1-0 record versus the Leafs.
Gabriel Landeskog (lower body) and Andre Burakovsky (upper body) both participated in Colorado's morning skate and could return to the lineup when the Avs take on the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
The Leafs are the second opponent to complete their season series with the Avs in 2019-20 (Florida). Colorado has won its last three visits to Scotiabank Arena and is 7-1-1 in its last nine games in the city of Toronto.
The outing will be the start of Colorado's fifth back-to-back set of the season, as the team will face the Canadiens tomorrow night in Montreal. The Avs just completed their fourth such set this past weekend, sweeping a home-and-home with the Chicago Blackhawks with a 5-2 win on Friday and 7-3 win on Saturday.
The Avalanche is 3-1-0 in the first contest and 2-2-0 in the second when playing on consecutive nights this year. Colorado has swept two of its back-to-backs, split one and got swept in another.
Nathan MacKinnon, the NHL's First Star of the Week and Second Star of the Month, has a four-game goal streak and seven-game point streak (6g/10a).
Ryan Graves has a career-high three-game point streak, and Matt Nieto's three-game streak is one short of his career best.