Cody McLeod wasn't on the ice for more than 30 seconds on Thursday morning before Ryan Johansen wrapped him up in a big bear hug.
The joy on the face of Nashville's top centerman was complemented by McLeod's classic hockey player grin, his front teeth lost long ago in battle.
A few more displays of affection from other teammates soon followed, and that doesn't include the ones that were distributed prior to the rugged winger emerging from the Predators locker room.
It was almost as if McLeod had never left. Heck, his wife and daughters never did, choosing to remain in Nashville this season while "Macker" went to New York to suit up for the Rangers. Essentially, all he had to do was pack a bag, move back into his house, jump in his truck and head to Bridgestone Arena, just like old times.
Video: STL@NSH, Gm3: McLeod sends home his own rebound
Known for his physicality and fisticuffs more than he ever will be for his goal-scoring ability, McLeod means more to this Nashville team than most will ever realize.
Sure, he's not going to lead the club in scoring, and he probably won't even be in the lineup every night over the next few months. But what McLeod may lack in offensive capabilities, he more than makes up for in areas that every team craves as the postseason looms on the horizon.
"I think everybody hugged him," Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of McLeod's return. "The players had huge smiles on their faces when they found out that Cody was coming back, coming home… What he means to his teammates and the organization is impactful, and the physicality that he can bring to the ice as well makes a difference. He's a great voice inside of our locker room, and we're happy to have him back."
"It's huge," Predators Captain Roman Josi said of McLeod's return. "When we heard about the news that he's coming back, everyone was really excited. He's one of those guys that brings so much energy into the room, and he's such a great teammate, and on the ice, too. He brings so much energy. We played him against the Rangers earlier this season, and he's hard to play against when he comes forechecking against you. It's so much fun to have him back."
As for the undrafted McLeod, he's going to keep doing what has gotten him NHL jobs for the past 12 seasons - forcing the opposition to keep their heads up while giving his own group a spark when they need it most.
"Just do my job, come back and bring the energy, that physicality and just do whatever it takes to win and get back to where we were a couple years ago," McLeod said. "The guys are great here, and it's exciting for sure. I'm looking forward to it and hopefully we make a deep run in the playoffs this year."
The only trip the Predators have taken to the Stanley Cup Final in their franchise's history came in 2017 when McLeod was on the roster. Coincidence? Perhaps, but there is simply no denying the lift he provides inside of that room.
And at this time of year, that can be just as important as anything else.
"The ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup and Nashville obviously has got a great chance to do it," McLeod said. "To be part of it and to be wanted, it's a great feeling."
Video: McLeod returns for his second stint with the Preds