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Drouin: Ready for the return

No. 92 will be facing his former team for the first time on Thursday night

by Vincent Regis, translated by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

TAMPA - Jonathan Drouin won't have to look very far for motivation on Thursday night against the Lightning.

The Habs, who lost the first contest of their three-game road trip the night before in Carolina - need to get back to their winning ways if they are to stay in the hunt in the playoff spot. But above all, the 22-year-old will be playing against his former team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, with whom he broke into the NHL in 2014-15.

Drouin, who was traded to the Canadiens in June in exchange for Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional pick in 2018, affirms that he had marked off the date with the Lightning in his calendar.

"I came in this summer and I knew we would be playing here in December," Drouin asserted on Thursday morning. "When you get traded, you always think about your first game back against your old team.

"It'll be easy to find my energy and motivation for tonight. When you get traded, you want to prove that they should've kept you. We also need the win. At the end of the day, it's a big game and it'll be an emotional night."

That said, don't expect the Sainte Agathe native to get swept up in a wave of nostalgia when he steps on the ice.

"I turned the page a long time ago," admitted Drouin, adding that the fact he was traded in the summer made it easier to move on. "I was able to take the time to meet the guys and get to know them, which you can't always do when you come in mid-season."

When asked if Habs fans have seen him at his best thus far this season, Drouin was candid in his response.

"No. I haven't really shown who I am yet - some flashes here and there - but it's not the real Jonathan," confided No. 92, who has scored five goals and added 13 assists in 35 games this season. "Playing center is a learning curve; you can't be 100% comfortable from the get-go. It's a different game than being a winger. The faceoff dot, when you play a lot of veterans like 'Jumbo' Joe [Thornton], Anze Kopitar, those guys are strong and heavy and have experience that I don't have at center in this League. It's been a learning curve, but I think it's been going pretty well lately."

Price in net against the Lightning

Claude Julien did not confirm if he would make any lineup changes from the previous night's game in Raleigh, but he did state that Carey Price would be back in the crease to play a second consecutive game.

No. 31 turned aside 33 of the 35 shots he faced against the Hurricanes.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised on TSN2 and RDS, and will be on the radio on TSN 690 and 98,5 fm.

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