Cory Conacher is excited to face his former team so quickly after being dealt - especially with his new club desperately needing a victory.
Conacher and the Ottawa Senators continue their seven-game road trip Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning trying to avoid a season-worst fifth consecutive defeat.
Dealing with injuries that have deprived the Senators of their top offensive players for much of the season, general manager Bryan Murray acquired Conacher and a fourth-round draft pick before last Wednesday's trade deadline for goaltender Ben Bishop, who could make his fourth start for the Lightning in this game.
Conacher, second among NHL rookies with 25 points, has quickly settled in with fellow first-year players Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg on Ottawa's third line. He noted they "have a lot of patience with the puck and very confident with the puck and that's huge" after both assisted on Conacher's goal in a 2-1 loss at Florida on Sunday.
The Senators (19-13-6) are tenuously holding onto sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Undrafted mainly due to his size, the 5-foot-8 Conacher quickly faces the team that gave him his break by offering him a training camp invite in 2011 after a standout career at Canisius College.
"I've built a lot of good relationships in the locker room over there in Tampa," he said. "I'm usually that gritty player who likes to chirp and get in guys' heads. It might be a little different with those guys but I'm going to play my same game and hopefully come out on top."
Ottawa, 0-3-0 on this trip, also lost four straight from Feb. 28-March 3 - all on the road - but managed to salvage two points in that stretch.
Bishop played a key role keeping Ottawa in contention after Craig Anderson sprained his ankle in February, but he became a valuable bargaining chip when the No. 1 goalie became healthy. Bishop has gone 1-2-0 in three starts since being acquired, losing the last two after a 45-save shutout of Carolina in his Lightning debut Thursday.
He allowed three goals in a 13:07 span of the second period in a 4-2 loss at Washington on Sunday. Tampa Bay fell eight points behind the division-leading Capitals with 10 games to play.
"The reality is the fact we're eight points out of the division and more than that out of the eight seed, but we're getting better as a team," coach Jon Cooper said. "The problem is we're running out of time. Until we get that little mark that says we're out, we'll keep going. There's a lot of heart in that room."
Bishop has stopped 103 of 109 shots for Tampa Bay.
Lightning defenseman Matt Carle has one goal and six assists in a career-high five-game point streak. He has a goal and an assist in Tampa Bay's two games versus Ottawa this season.
The home team has won each of those, with Ryan Malone scoring two third-period goals in the Lightning's 6-4 victory against Bishop on Jan. 25. Ottawa scored four times in a 7:01 span of the first period in the most recent meeting March 23, posting a 5-3 win.
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson has gone six games without a point since netting two goals in the win over the Lightning.