Jonathan Drouin opened the scoring for the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night in his first regular season game since taking a personal leave of absence last spring.
Drouin revealed last month he stepped away on April 28 last season to deal with anxiety and insomnia.
"My head's clearer," Drouin said when asked how he feels now compared last season. "I'm more in the game, I'm more focused, I'm more ready.
"Going to the rink was a completely different experience for me than the past couple years."
Drouin's goal would stand as the Canadiens only tally on Wednesday as they lost their season opener 2-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"It was nice to get one," added Drouin, who finished with 17:33 of ice time. "But I wish we got the two points instead."
The 26-year-old had two goals and 23 points in 44 games last season before being placed on long-term injured reserve. He did not take part in the team's playoff run.
“I’ve had anxiety problems for many years; insomnia problems that relate to my anxiety,” Drouin told RDS Canadiens reporter Chantal Machabee in an exclusive interview in September. “That week in Calgary where we played three games (April 23-26) – I missed all three of them and wasn’t feeling good.
“It was where I hit a wall for me, and it was time to step away from the game and really take a step back from everything and kind of enjoy life. I needed it, and it was hard for me to do at that time and obviously, playoffs were coming around.
“It wasn’t an easy thing to do and I’m proud of what I’d done and happy I did it. I’m 26 years old, so I wanted to do that at that point in my career and feel good for the next years.”
The Canadiens will face the Buffalo Sabres Thursday before returning to Montreal for their home opener against the New York Rangers on Saturday.