After spending his entire NHL career in Montreal, Saku Koivu signed as a free agent with the Anaheim Ducks back in July. It seems the move west is agreeing with him.
The veteran forward has taken to the California lifestyle and it is a far more laid-back Koivu who now suits up for the Ducks.
"I think he's playing here with a lot less pressure," explained forward Kyle Chipchura. "He's playing more relaxed and for the love of the game."
"I think you can create your own happiness. As long as you have your family with you, I think it doesn't matter where you are, but California and Anaheim have been really good to us," said Koivu on Friday.
The intense scrutiny that goes hand-in-hand with being the captain of the Canadiens is gone, but the commitment and fire that helped Koivu thrive in that environment continues to power his game.
"You still create your own pressure, you want to be part of a winning team," he explained.
This Sunday, Koivu will get his first chance to face his former team. He knows it will be intense skating against the bleu, blanc et rouge.
"That's going to be a tough one. It's going to be a different one. Obviously I was a part of that organization for so long."
"He knew the exact date when we played against Montreal right away when the season started," said teammate Teemu Selanne.
Koivu was at times a popular target of the media and fan base in Montreal, but when asked about his experiences with the Canadiens, he has no ill will and has simply moved on.
"Montreal is a place where things get tough at times and it is not always easy to be a hockey player there,” he said. “But overall, looking back there were many more positive things than negative.
"There are things we are going to miss [about Montreal] and memories we are going to keep for the rest of our lives, but it was just time for us to move on, for a different chapter of our lives," said Koivu.
While Koivu has battled groin and knee injuries this season, he has still played 54 games with 12 goals, 22 assists and a plus-7 rating.
- This story includes files from TSN's John Lu