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Back to where it all started

Canadiens forward Riley Barber is set to face his hometown Penguins for the first time tonight

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

As if getting his first call-up of the season to Montreal wasn't exciting enough, Riley Barber's Canadiens debut will take place in Pittsburgh against his hometown Penguins tonight at PPG Paints Arena.

"That's really special, to go back to where it all started - in this jersey - is something that is really special to me and obviously something my family and myself won't ever forget," Barber said.

Barber, 25, grew up in Washington, Pa., and went to grade school at J.F.K. Catholic - which was right down the street from his maternal grandparents. 

"Right after school my mom was teaching figure skating and stuff at Southpointe, and I would be downtown quite a bit," Barber said.

Riley's dad, former NHLer Don Barber, coached him with the Pittsburgh Hornets - along with John Gibson, J.T. Miller and Vince Trocheck, who have all developed into successful NHL players. The four of them won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2013 World Junior Championship. Barber also played for AT&T Sportsnet color analyst Bob Errey when he was a kid.

"I think our team was called the Pittsburgh Mega Men or something like that back in the day," Barber said with a laugh. "He was great. My dad and him got along really well and we had a great group growing up there. We had fun weekends playing mini hockey with him and his kids."

Barber grew up a big Penguins fan, saying that he loved Colby Armstrong, Ryan Malone and of course, Sidney Crosby. And a few years after the Barber family moved to Michigan when Riley was 12, he got the chance to watch the Penguins defeat the Red Wings in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final in person.

"I was there when they won the Stanley Cup in Detroit," Barber said. "I remember when Mario (Lemieux) bought the team. He had a kid a little bit older than me and he was around the rink at times, so I saw him growing up. When we drafted Crosby, it was a big thing for me and my brothers, that's for sure."

While Barber won't get the chance to play against Crosby tonight, it will still be incredibly special. Especially considering that Barber was selected in the sixth round (167th overall) by the Washington Capitals during the draft that took place at this very rink in 2012, but never attended or played a game here. 

And tonight, the forward - who had been in the Capitals organization up until he signed a one year, two-way deal with Montreal this past summer - will get the chance to do so in front of his family and friends.

"My cousins and my grandfather, my mom's dad, still live here," Barber said. "So he'll be at the game tonight. A lot easier travel this time around. It was nice when I was in Hershey because he was only a couple hours away. It will be good for him to be here tonight.

"I'm just really excited. I'm looking forward to getting out there and getting it going."

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