MONTREAL - When Jeff Petry thinks about suiting up for his 500th career NHL game on Saturday night, his on-ice accomplishments aren't the only thing that come to mind.
Away from the rink, a lot has changed for the 30-year-old defenseman over the years - from leaving his long-time hockey home in Edmonton and making the move to Montreal in March 2015, to welcoming two sons into the world with his wife, Julie - two-and-a-half-year-old Boyd Jackson and nine-month-old Barrett Hawkins.
"There's been a lot of things to be proud of over that stretch since coming out of college," said Petry, who met his better half while the pair attended Michigan State University in the late 2000s. "So much has happened since then. I've matured over the last eight years, getting married and having two kids."
Likewise, Petry has seen real maturation and development in his game since debuting with the Oilers during the 2010-11 campaign. It was a gradual process the Ann Arbor, MI native wholeheartedly embraced.
"I think it was a process after college and jumping into the NHL after about a half a year in the American League," explained Petry, a former second-round pick of the Oilers - 45th overall - back in 2006. "The speed was obviously a big thing, but just the thinking part of the game, knowing what play you're going to do before getting the puck, because everyone makes plays so much quicker at this level."
That comes with experience, of course, and seeing the fruits of his labor definitely made it all worthwhile.
"It was about gradually taking those steps. My goal was obviously to make the NHL, take it step by step, get an education and then to work my way up," said Petry, who currently leads all Canadiens defensemen with eight goals and 25 points in 54 games so far this season - three points shy of matching his single-season high. "I think my game is pretty good right now There's always room for improvement, and I think that's something I've learned along the way. Now, it's just about pushing forward to continue elevating your game."
Video: OTT@MTL: Petry rips one-timer past Condon for PPG
Petry has done just that of late with a two-goal performance against the Anaheim Ducks last Saturday before adding another marker against the Ottawa Senators on Super Bowl Sunday.
He also ranks second on the roster with 123 hits and third with 93 blocked shots while averaging a 23:27 of ice time per game on the back end.
In retrospect, electing to pursue hockey over baseball in high school has undoubtedly proven to be a solid choice.
"The first question everyone asks is why you chose hockey. It was a passion of mine. I enjoyed playing hockey more and I don't think anyone's happier than obviously myself and my parents," concluded Petry, who boasts 41 goals and 150 points on his NHL resume. "It's just a nice feeling to get to this milestone. It's a nice accomplishment."