RALEIGH, N.C. -- Defenseman Tim Gleason, traded from the Carolina Hurricanes to the Toronto Maple Leafs eight days ago, is back in the place he called home for eight years, as the two teams meet Thursday night at PNC Arena. It didn't take long to tap into the awkward vibe so many players experience when they return to face their former teams.
"I got to stay home last night," said Gleason, who played his first game with Toronto on Tuesday. "I drove my truck to practice today. I saw my ex-boss, [general manager] Jim Rutherford. I kind of followed him all the way to the rink. I don't think he saw me. Kind of a small world."
Gleason then parked in the players' lot, but a good distance from the Carolina players. It's all part of the separation that goes with moving to a new club.
In Gleason's case, the time had come. In and out of the lineup all season, he knew he was becoming the odd man out with the Hurricanes.
"I think I needed a new start," Gleason, 30, said. "Did I want to be traded? No. But hockey-wise, I knew it was time to move on and do my thing somewhere else."
In return, Carolina received John-Michael Liles, a puck-moving defenseman and power play specialist; both roles the Hurricanes have been seeking to fill. After playing just six games in Toronto this season, Liles is enjoying his new surroundings.
"You try to put it behind you as quickly as possible," said Liles, who has played in all three Carolina games since the trade. "For the most part, it's trying to get to know the guys and their tendencies on the ice. The guys in the room have been fantastic. We've had a chance to go to dinner a few times. I'm starting to get settled down here in Raleigh, and it's been great so far."