It had been a little while since Vernon Fiddler had stepped into the Nashville Predators locker room.
The roster has some different names today than it did back in the spring of 2009 - goaltender Pekka Rinne is the only player that remains from Fiddler's last game with the Preds - but when the 36-year-old centerman entered the Nashville dressing room once more after being acquired from New Jersey on Saturday, there was a sense of familiarity most don't get to enjoy after a trade.
Originally signed by the Preds in 2002 as an undrafted free agent, Fiddler established himself around the League as a player who would do anything to win at the end of the night. The Edmonton native spent six seasons with Nashville - 305 games total - and he figures to add to that number when the Preds host the Canucks on Tuesday.
"I got the news a couple days ago there, and I'm very excited to be back," Fiddler said after wearing jersey No. 83 during Monday's practice at Bridgestone Arena. "My career started here. I've had lots of great memories, and I'm looking forward to making some more here."
Some of those memories of Smashville that stick out more than others? His first game, of course comes to mind, but the feeling during the springtime in and around Bridgestone Arena is one he certainly plans on experiencing once more.
"Playing in the playoffs in front of these fans, it was amazing, and still to this day, the loudest building I've ever played in during the playoffs," Fiddler said. "I'm really looking forward to getting that opportunity again. We have lots of work to do here but, I'm willing to put the work boots on and help out."
Fiddler has shown that mentality during his 14 NHL seasons, a player relied upon in key situations to make it uncomfortable for the opposition to get a crack at the net. Perhaps just as important, if not more so, are his abilities in the locker room, another veteran voice added to a young Predators club.
"That's one of the reasons why we talked about a guy like him and looked at a guy like him," Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Fiddler. "I think there's lot of things he does on the ice well, but certainly his leadership, his veteran presence; he has a familiarity here from his past and he's excited to be here, really excited to be here."
Fiddler has been around long enough to know exactly what will be expected of him in all situations. The fact that he's come to a team with a chance to make a postseason run is attractive enough, but the fact that it's back where his journey as an NHLer began is even sweeter.
"I know what I have to do to be in this League, and I'm sure they're not looking for anything other than that," Fiddler said. "I've just got to play my game and try to fit in with the guys as much as I can. I've been around a long time, so if I can help out in areas where guys are struggling or put my word in on something, I'm sure they'll ask my opinion on that, but I just want to come in here and just do my role and try to work as hard as I can every night to help us win as many hockey games as I can."
Fiddler will reacquaint himself with everything Nashville has to offer in the coming days and weeks - including the interstates, which have undoubtedly become more congested since he was here last - but as they city grows, so does its hockey franchise.
And Fiddler can't wait to begin again.
"It was such a great feeling coming off that plane and walking back into that airport," Fiddler said. "It brought back so many great memories, and I'm just really looking forward to the opportunity."
Laviolette Talks Pigskin:
Like much of America, Laviolette was tuned in to see the Atlanta Falcons jump out to a 21-0 lead over the New England Patriots during Super Bowl LI on Sunday evening. But just a couple of hours later, once the Patriots had stormed back to claim a 34-28 victory in overtime of what many have called the greatest Super Bowl ever, the Massachusetts native wasn't disappointed in the result.
"That was a big day yesterday," Laviolette quipped. "That was awesome."
After enjoying a moment to speak on the New England victory, however, Laviolette was quick to clarify where his allegiances lie.
"I want to put an asterisk next to that - my roots take me back to Boston, but I'm a Titans fan, first and foremost."
P.K. in Primetime:
Video: Behind the scenes of the Honda NHL All-Star Weekend
Can't get enough behind-the-scenes access of the Preds? Tonight, the NHL has you covered. Predators defenseman P.K. Subban, who captained the Central Division All-Stars during the 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles last month, was mic'd up during the Skills Competition, and of course, his infectious personality was on full display.
Subban is featured prominently in the NHL All-Star All Access program, which debuts tonight at 10:30 CT on NBCSN in the U.S. and 10 p.m. CT on Sportsnet in Canada. Check out a sneak peak of No. 76 below.
Shot of the Day: