NASHVILLE -- Pittsburgh Penguins forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling will return to Bridgestone Arena on Saturday to play the Nashville Predators for the first time since being traded in June.
"It feels a little weird to come here this early in the season," Hornqvist said. "I spent six great years here and a lot of things to take from Nashville. It was nice to see the boys [Friday] night, and it's going to be fun to play against them [Saturday]."
Hornqvist and Spaling were traded to Pittsburgh by Nashville in exchange for forward James Neal. Hornqvist and Spaling were key players for Nashville last season, so the trade took them by surprise.
"It was the team I was with for a while so it's always tough to leave. But there was also excitement to start again with a brand new team," Spaling said. "A team like Pittsburgh was obviously exciting. It could have been a lot of different places. To go to a great franchise and a good hockey team like this was exciting."
Hornqvist was an alternate captain for the Predators before being traded, which made what happened more shocking for him. He was happy Spaling came with him to Pittsburgh to make the transition easier.
"That was good for me and for him. At least we knew each other," Hornqvist said. "I think with the change in Pittsburgh made it a little easier too, changing coaches and GMs. Everybody was on a new start and that helped me too."
The Penguins will play a Predators team with a defense led by Shea Weber. Spaling is looking forward to playing against his former teammate for the first time.
"It’ll be fun … well, maybe not so fun," Spaling said. "I know he's a competitor. He plays hard. For many years he's been a good guy to have on your team. He's tough to play against so it's going to be a little strange seeing the other side of being the one playing against him and having to go through that. I know he's a competitor and I know it's going to be a battle against him but I'm kind of looking forward to it."
Weber had a chance to speak with Hornqvist and Spaling on Friday and is looking forward to the challenge of defending them Saturday.
"It's going to be fun," Weber said. "Obviously two good players that we played with for a long time, so it's going to be different but it's going to be a lot of fun."
Pittsburgh lost 4-3 in overtime to the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday after having a 3-1 lead entering the third period. Nashville defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 on Thursday to remain unbeaten in regulation. Neal had his fifth career hat trick to lead Nashville to the win.
Here are the projected lineups:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Pascal Dupuis - Evgeni Malkin - Blake Comeau
Nick Spaling - Brandon Sutter - Steve Downie
Zach Sill - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams
Olli Maatta - Kris Letang
Christian Ehrhoff - Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres
Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo
Injured: Beau Bennett (lower body)
Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - James Neal
Colin Wilson - Derek Roy - Craig Smith
Olli Jokinen - Calle Jarnkrok - Taylor Beck
Eric Nystrom - Paul Gaustad - Viktor Stalberg
Roman Josi - Shea Weber
Anton Volchenkov - Seth Jones
Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis
Scratched: Rich Clune, Gabriel Bourque, Victor Bartley
Injured: Mike Fisher (ruptured Achilles tendon), Matt Cullen (upper body)
Status report: Fleury is back in goal for Pittsburgh after Thomas Greiss started Thursday. ... The Penguins have been shuffling their second and third lines around. ... Bortuzzo was the extra man on defense at the morning skate. … The Predators are going with the same lineup from Thursday against the Blackhawks to combat a similar style of play from the Penguins.
Who's hot: Comeau has three assists in the past two games for the Penguins. … Neal had a hat trick Thursday and has five goals in the past four games for the Predators.