MONTREAL - When we surprised Nate Thompson with this week's #TBT photograph after practice on Wednesday, we're pretty sure he enjoyed the trip down memory lane.
The picture was snapped on December 18, 2014 when Thompson and the Ducks were in town to battle Brendan Gallagher and the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
"It feels like forever ago. That's probably the first thing that comes to mind. It goes by quick," said Thompson, seconds after being presented with the image. "Sometimes it feels like yesterday that I was in Anaheim, but it's been more than a few years now since I've left."
The 35-year-old veteran centerman played three seasons for the Ducks, proudly representing the organization between 2014 and 2017.
He registered nine goals and 26 points in 159 regular-season games, and helped the club reach the Western Conference Finals on two occasions.
"I've got nothing but fond memories. My time there was great. We had a lot of good teams. We went on a couple of good runs. There was a great core group of guys there. I was close with a lot of them, so it was definitely a highlight of my career," reminisced Thompson, who will be going up against some familiar faces on Thursday night. "We had a couple of teams where we were one goal here, one goal there from possibly getting to the Stanley Cup Final and maybe winning it. We were that close."
One thing's for sure, Thompson is thrilled that he isn't Gallagher's opponent anymore.
Gallagher, of course, tends to make life extra difficult for those charged with trying to slow him down.
"I'd definitely rather be his teammate. He's a guy that's hard to play against. He's kind of a little disturber out there. That's a nice way to put it," explained Thompson with a laugh. "He's just so relentless. Even without the puck, he's always in your face. He plays hard from the start of his shift to the end of his shift."
And the respect is mutual. Gallagher has long admired the Anchorage, AK native, who quickly endeared himself to the rest of the group upon arrival 12 months ago from the Los Angeles Kings.
"I've played against Nate a lot. I remember him in Tampa and Ottawa a little bit more. He always had the same role - strong faceoff guy, good on the penalty kill, and you would see a lot of him. Whenever your opponent needed a faceoff win, he was the guy that the other team would be sending out there," praised Gallagher, referencing Thompson's career faceoff percentage of 52.9%. "He's a disciplined, smart and responsible player who made a career out of what he does here, and he's done it for a long time."
Off the ice, the pair also became fast friends while travelling on the team charter.
"We spend a lot of time playing cards together. We sit beside each other on the plane. We definitely have some fun. It's me, him, Tuna [Tomas Tatar] and Domes [Max Domi]," concluded Gallagher. "Nate is the oldest guy at the table. We like to have some fun with that. But he's got the most experience, so he likes to let us know that he's seen a few things and we can't pull anything on him. He's a good teammate to have."
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