Jeff Carter had wanted to finish his career in Los Angeles after winning two Stanley Cups in his 10 seasons with the Kings, so the day he got traded to the Penguins was an understandably difficult one.
But looking at the big picture, the veteran forward feels that the move may have actually extended that career with how well everything has worked out in Pittsburgh.
"I've just really enjoyed my time here, and I feel like it's given me a boost in my career. Probably prolonged it a few more years, hopefully," Carter, who turned 37 on Jan. 1, said following Penguins practice on Wednesday at Crypto.com Arena (formerly Staples Center).
"I think after spending 10 years here and the friendships that I have on the other side with staff, players and everybody, it wasn't easy. But that's the way it goes sometimes, and you get through it and you move on."
That being said, Carter said he's been looking forward to Thursday's matchup with the Kings all season, which will mark his first game against his former teammates since the Penguins acquired him on April 12, 2021.
"It's the old cliché that it's just another game, but it'll be a fun night for me," Carter said. "Winning twice here, pretty special moments for us. Then just the friendships - I have so many friends over there still that I keep in touch with daily. So it's a lot of fun to be back. I'm sure it'll feel a little weird come game time, but I'm looking forward to it."
Carter said he's expecting a tough game, as the Kings are playing some really good hockey right now. They are 4-2 coming out of the break, and most recently defeated the Rangers 3-1 on Monday. But for their part, the Penguins have been on an absolute tear, winning 11 of their past 12 games.
Carter played a big role in Tuesday's 4-1 win over Anaheim, scoring twice while skating on Evgeni Malkin's left wing in the superstar center's three-point season debut. Their line with Kasperi Kapanen - who recorded two helpers - combined for seven points.
"G looked pretty good, eh?" Carter said with a laugh. "It looked like he didn't miss a beat. Kappy and I were talking during the game - it's just his confidence. The plays he's making and taking guys 1-on-1 after seven months off, it's something special to watch. So it's a lot of fun to play with him."
For his part, Malkin raved about playing with Carter, who helped out his centerman by taking a lot of faceoffs and handling defensive responsibilities in Pittsburgh's zone. It's pretty remarkable to see the reverence that everybody on the Penguins roster holds for Carter, whether they're a three-time Stanley Cup champion like Malkin or a rookie like Drew O'Connor, and he's just added so much to an already strong team chemistry.
"I think for me, it was just a really easy group to come into," Carter said. "A great group of guys, a fun system to play. I think it's a real upbeat system. It makes you play on your toes and play fast all the time. And then just great players. I think I've been put in positions where it's made it easy for me to go out and play."