PHILADELPHIA -- You can forgive Matt Carle for feeling a bit out of sorts Tuesday morning when he arrived at Wells Fargo Center.
It's been nearly five years since the Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman had to use the visiting facilities here.
This will be Carle's first game back after signing with the Lightning as a free agent over the summer. In four seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, he had 137 points in 308 games, including a career-best 39 assists in 2010-11. He also had 26 points in 51 Stanley Cup Playoff games, and joined with Chris Pronger to form the Flyers' top defense pairing when they went to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.
"It's obviously a familiar place," Carle told NHL.com. "It is weird walking by the [home] locker room. I think I've played maybe one or two games here as a visitor. I had to do a quick tour of the visiting locker room because I really didn't remember what it looked like. It'll be weird going on the ice. I played here four years, and it was a good four years. Lot of memories out there."
He's making new memories now with the Lightning, with a goal and six assists in eight games to help the Lightning jump to the top of the Southeast Division.
"It's a work in progress with a short training camp and trying to get familiar with new players, new coaches, new systems," Carle said. "We're eight games in and starting to feel more and more comfortable. Obviously with the success the team has had it's much easier."
It's also easier in general for Carle with the Lightning. His first stint with the team lasted 12 games at the start of the 2008-09 season after being traded there by the San Jose Sharks as part of the Dan Boyle deal. Just four months later, he was traded again, to the Flyers.
But the relationship he built with Lightning stalwarts Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis made it easier for him to pick the team in July.
"Those are the guys that when I was here before were part of the group that is still here," Carle said. "There was some familiarity with those guys. Making the decision to come back here and knowing those guys made it much easier."
His current teammates certainly are happy to have him back.
"His time [in Philadelphia] was really a maturation time," St. Louis told NHL.com. "Now we get a Matt Carle at a whole different time in his career. I don't think he had a fair shake the first time he was with us. It was an unfair situation, on many levels, but for him right now the way he plays the game, he's such a big addition to our team."