NASHVILLE -- Ottawa Senators center David Legwand said he was unsure whether he would receive a Ryan Suter-type reception or a different kind Thursday when the former longtime member of the Nashville Predators plays his first game in a visiting uniform at Bridgestone Arena.
Suter, of course, was the Predators' first-round pick (No. 7) in the 2003 NHL Draft and an All-Star defenseman who left Nashville via free agency for the Minnesota Wild in 2011, and has been booed mercilessly every time he returns.
Legwand's circumstances are different. A pending unrestricted free agent last season, Legwand, a native of the Detroit suburbs, was traded by the Predators at the NHL Trade Deadline to the Detroit Red Wings for a package that included center Calle Jarnkrok, who now counts highly in the Predators' current and future plans.
"We'll see what happens," Legwand said, "but it's always fun to come back."
Legwand was chosen second in the 1998 draft, making him the first player in Predators history. He played 956 games in a Predators uniform and owns numerous franchise records. Along with games, he also leads in goals (210), assists (356) and points (566).
On Thursday, he recounted some of his favorite memories.
"Obviously, the first playoff game in '03-'04 against Detroit, coming home to this building, the fans almost blew the roof off it when we beat them in Game 3," Legwand said, "and my son was born on a game night. That kind of got out of the bag. That was exciting to have a chance to do that. My wife let me do that so that was nice of her. Beating Anaheim in '11 [for the Predators' first victory in a Stanley Cup Playoff series] was exciting. Meeting people and getting to know the guys you got to play with over the course of 15 years is exciting, and the organization and all that stuff was great."
Legwand said he had no regrets about how his time ended in Nashville and reflected on leaving the only NHL city he had ever known.
"I think I kind of knew it was coming," he said. "I think I felt in my own mind that [former coach Barry Trotz] would leave at the end of the year and they were kind of going to part ways. I wanted to go somewhere else and see what it was like and play in a full-blown hockey market like a Detroit. I had that chance with all the injuries they had and that was exciting for me."
Sometimes a player can be overcome by emotions, which happened with Suter in his first game back in Nashville. Ottawa coach Paul MacLean was not concerned about it. He predicted it would be a "good night" for Legwand, who looks as if he will play a third-line center role.
"I think he's looking forward to it," MacLean said. "He's had a lot of people saying hello to him the last couple of days and that's a great tribute to him. A lot of his [former] teammates have been here to see him. I just think that gives us even more confidence in having him here, in Ottawa, in having him along the way. I think it's going to be a special night for him."
Though Legwand, whose parents will attend the game, has had friendly encounters with his former teammates the past few days, Predators captain Shea Weber, one of the game's fiercest hitters, said there are no friends on the ice.
"I think he knows I'm coming," Weber said. "He's played with me long enough so he'll know…."
Here are the projected lineups:
Gabriel Bourque - Mike Ribeiro - James Neal
Filip Forsberg - Derek Roy - Craig Smith
Colin Wilson - Calle Jarnkrok - Olli Jokinen
Rich Clune - Paul Gaustad - Eric Nystrom
Roman Josi - Shea Weber
Anton Volchenkov - Seth Jones
Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis
Scratched: LW Taylor Beck, D Victor Bartley.
Injured: Mike Fisher (ruptured Achilles), Viktor Stalberg (lower body), Matt Cullen (upper body)
Clarke MacArthur – Kyle Turris – Bobby Ryan
Milan Michalek – Mika Zibanejad – Alex Chiasson
Zack Smith – David Legwand – Mark Stone
Mike Hoffman – Curtis Lazar – Chris Neil
Jared Cowen – Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips – Cody Ceci
Mark Borowiecki – Eric Gryba
Scratched: LW Colin Greening, RW Erik Condra, D Patrick Wiercioch
Injured: Marc Methot (back)
Status report: Nashville named Neal as an alternate captain for this season. He joins Weber and alternate captain Fisher on the Predators leadership group. Certain players will rotate time wearing the 'A' while Fisher is on injured reserve, starting with Josi … With Methot on IR, Cowen moves up to Ottawa's first pair to play with Karlsson … MacLean said he would try to get Ottawa's scratches some playing time on a rotating basis … Volchenkov, in his first season with the Predators, will play with Jones, the No. 4 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, to help provide some muscle.