BROSSARD - There may not be a perfect time for anything, but it sure looks like the timing on Riley Barber's call-up to the Canadiens is as close to perfect as it gets.
Barber, who signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Canadiens on July 1, is a Pittsburgh native and moves up from the club's AHL affiliate in Laval just in time to play the Penguins in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night.
Does it get any more exciting than that?
"That's really special, to go back to where it all started - in this jersey - is something that is really special to me and obviously something my family and myself won't ever forget," shared Barber, the Washington Capitals' sixth-round pick (167th overall) in 2012, who was recalled on Sunday afternoon. "I think my mom might beat us [to Pittsburgh]. She's already there, and I've got family that are still there, so they're all excited, especially my cousins and people that I haven't seen in a long time."
Video: Riley Barber on being recalled from Laval
When he steps onto the ice at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, Barber will be getting his first taste of NHL action since the 2016-17 season, when he played three games for the Capitals. And while that first recall to the big leagues may have been a remarkable experience, Barber is more ready to get down to business this time around.
"It's a different feeling, this time, being called up. I think the first time you get called up you're a little starstruck and all that," described Barber, currently in his fifth season in the AHL and first with the Rocket after four seasons with the Caps' minor-league affiliate in Hershey, PA. "Now, I'm just very calm and ready to take advantage of it."
The pro experience Barber has gained in the interim is part of what's making him confident about his latest trip to the NHL, but more specifically, his recent play with the Laval Rocket is what's behind it and it's also why he's the one who's been given the nod.
"We're lucky to have players who can come here and give us a hand, and Barber is one of them. We kept him until the end [of training camp]. He has a good shot, he has good stats in the AHL," described head coach Claude Julien of Barber, who was riding a five-game points streak (2G, 5A) at the time of his recall. "We needed someone who can play on the right, and he was the guy who was available.
"I know Riley has been playing some good hockey lately. He's been getting scoring chances. Maybe he had a bit of a slow start, but he seems to have made up for it."
Video: Claude Julien's press conference
The slow start Julien is referring to is when Barber managed just one point in his first seven games of the season, but the 25-year-old is far removed from that stretch - he's now the Rocket's leading point-getter with 18 (6G, 12A) in 21 games.
"I was getting the scoring chances, and lately they've been falling for me and my linemates. I had good chemistry down there with [Ryan] Poehling and [Jake] Evans there for a couple of games, and before [Matthew] Peca got called up," explained Barber. "I think they've just been kind of falling and I've been working hard. We have a great group of guys down there, so they make it really easy."
The 6-foot, 190-pound right winger's efforts have not gone unnoticed in Montreal, that's for sure.
"We've watched a couple of Laval games when we're waiting to play our games," mentioned captain Shea Weber. "It seems like he's always around the net in the right spot, and is able to get things done offensively."
Video: Shea Weber on a Penguins squad without Crosby
With Tuesday's game in Pittsburgh the first of a back-to-back - the Habs face the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night - Julien wouldn't say which goaltenders he'd be using for the next two games, only telling reporters that he'd announce his starter against the Penguins on Tuesday in Pennsylvania.
The Habs departed for Pittsburgh immediately following practice on Monday. They face the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday.