Ducks-Canadiens Preview

Saku Koivu was the Canadiens’ emotional leader for the better

part of 13 seasons. His return to Montreal will most certainly stir

up a great deal of emotions.

Koivu will take the ice at the Bell Centre for the first time in

a visiting uniform when the Anaheim Ducks face the Canadiens on

Saturday night.

Koivu’s time in Montreal (27-17-4) saw him become a fan favorite

and the first European-born captain of the club, serving from

1999-2009 to match Jean Beliveau as the longest tenured in team


Koivu’s place in Canadiens’ lore is also seen in the record

books, where he ranks sixth all-time in team history with 450

assists. The top 12 names on that list are Koivu and 11 Hall of


Montreal opted against re-signing Koivu following the 2008-09

season, which ended with a first-round playoff sweep by Boston. He

signed with Anaheim (26-20-4), getting 52 points last season and 24

so far in 2010-11.

Emotional tributes at the Bell Centre aren’t unknown to Koivu,

who was given a lengthy standing ovation upon his return from

non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that forced him to miss the first 79 games

in 2001-02.

“It’s a very special day,” Koivu told the Ducks’ official

website of his return Saturday. “Obviously, it was home for us for

14 years. We fell in love with the city. It was a great place for

us. We experienced a lot, some good things and some bad things, or

unfortunate things. There are a lot of emotional things that


“This is going to be a game, a weekend that I will remember

probably for the rest of my life. There are a lot of feelings


Koivu is also concerned with helping the Ducks rebound from

Thursday’s 5-2 loss at Toronto, which prompted a lengthy

closed-door meeting afterward.

“There is a lot of excitement and a lot of emotions involved,

but at the end of the day, it’s two points that are really big for

us. Hopefully, this is not going to have too much of a

distraction,” he said.

Koivu, whose 641 points are 10th in Canadiens history, has faced

his former team once. He failed to record a point as the Ducks

wasted a three-goal, first-period lead and fell 4-3 in a shootout

on March 7 in Anaheim.

The Ducks have dropped six of nine on the road, and their

listless effort against the Maple Leafs is worrisome for coach

Randy Carlyle.

“We played about 12 minutes of hockey,” he said. “You can’t play

12 minutes of hockey and expect to win in the NHL.”

That’s certainly valid against Montreal, which is on a 6-1-1 run

and coming off Friday’s 7-1 rout at Ottawa. The Canadiens are

13-3-2 in their last 18 at home, where Tomas Plekanec has scored 12

of his 16 goals.

Plekanec has four goals and two assists in his last six games

after scoring twice against the Senators to tie Brian Gionta for

the team lead.

Gionta, who replaced Koivu as the Canadiens’ captain, has also

been more effective in Montreal, scoring 11 times. He snapped a

five-game goal drought Friday.

Gionta and Plekanec scored in regulation against the Ducks last

season before securing the win with goals in the tiebreaker.