The Most Anticipated Homecomings Remaining in the 2013-14 NHL Season

Carol Schram@pool88Featured ColumnistDecember 5, 2013

The Most Anticipated Homecomings Remaining in the 2013-14 NHL Season

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    On December 1, prodigal son Daniel Alfredsson returned to Ottawa for the first time as a member of his new team, the Detroit Red Wings.

    Senators fans welcomed Alfie back with open arms—until the realization set in that he is now the enemy.

    The Wings beat the Sens 4-2 that night, with Alfredsson collecting an assist, an empty-net goal and third-star honors. Thus begins the process of closure in Ottawa.

    Alfredsson's return was certainly one of the most anticipated homecomings of the NHL season. Here's a look at seven more matchups with a little extra meaning, including three coming up in the next week.

Carolina Hurricanes at Vancouver Canucks: Monday, December 9

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    Manny Malhotra returns to Rogers Arena

    Though he played the unglamorous role of penalty-killer and faceoff specialist, Manny Malhotra was a beloved member of the star-studded 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks. The shock waves ran deep among the faithful when he suffered a serious eye injury after taking a puck to the face 72 games into Vancouver's Presidents' Trophy-winning season.

    After several surgeries, Malhotra gave the Canucks an emotional lift when he returned to the team for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final later that spring. The following season, he appeared in 78 games, along with another nine after the lockout. In February 2013, Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis shut down Malhotra due to concerns about his on-ice safety as a result of his permanently impaired vision.

    It was clear when the announcement was made that Malhotra did not agree with Gillis' decree. Once his contract with the Canucks expired on July 1, he pursued other opportunities, eventually turning an AHL tryout contract into a one-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes.

    The Canucks recently faced the 'Canes on December 1 in Raleigh. Emotions will run much higher when Malhotra returns to Rogers Arena as a member of the opposition on December 9.

Boston Bruins at Calgary Flames: Tuesday, December 10

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    Jarome Iginla returns to the Saddledome

    The heart of the Calgary Flames was heavy as the team embarked on its solemn mission last spring to trade longtime captain Jarome Iginla to a Stanley Cup contender.

    A comedy of errors led to an announcement that Iggy had been dealt to the Boston Bruins before word came out that the deal had actually been made with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Iginla had a decent playoff run—the Pens made the Eastern Conference Final before being ousted by Boston—but he wasn't able to recapture the magic of the 2010 Olympic "Golden Goal" alongside Sidney Crosby. Iginla scored 12 points in 15 playoff games but wasn't the difference-maker that Pittsburgh had hoped it was acquiring.

    As a result, Iginla moved on to Boston during the summer. Though his offensive production has dropped off a bit, he has fit in nicely on the B's top line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic and is putting up rock-solid defensive numbers.

    Flames fans will get their first look at Iginla in the black and gold when the Bruins visit the Saddledome on December 10. Iginla will also play host to his old team just one week later when the Flames travel to Boston on December 17.

Los Angeles Kings at Toronto Maple Leafs: Wednesday, December 11

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    Ben Scrivens and Jonathan Bernier have a chance to face off

    The careers of two talented young goaltenders were linked forever when Ben Scrivens and Jonathan Bernier were traded for each other on June 23, 2013.

    The Toronto Maple Leafs thought Bernier was ready to challenge incumbent James Reimer for the No. 1 spot, so Scrivens was moved to the Los Angeles Kings to make room.

    Five months later, everybody's thriving. Bernier has earned 18 starts in Toronto to Reimer's 13 and has the better numbers with a 2.44 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. Scrivens has kept the story interesting with lights-out play since his No. 1, Jonathan Quick, went down with a groin injury on November 12. Scrivens has posted a stunning 1.56 goals-against and .943 save percentage in his 15 starts with L.A.

    The Kings and Leafs will face off for the first time this season at the Air Canada Centre on December 11, with their second game in L.A. on March 13. Here's hoping Bernier and Scrivens get a chance to go toe-to-toe.

Boston Bruins at Dallas Stars: Thursday, January 16

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    Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith return to Dallas

    In an era where blockbuster trades are as rare as five-goal games, the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars went for broke last summer in a seven-player deal. The key pieces were Bruins problem child Tyler Seguin and Stars winger Loui Eriksson.

    So far, the deal has been a success for both sides. Eriksson has delivered as promised, and 22-year-old sophomore Reilly Smith is third in Boston's team scoring. Meanwhile, Seguin put his issues behind him and clicked instantly with Stars center Jamie Benn. He was enjoying the best season of his career before being sidelined on November 29 with concussion-like symptoms.

    When the traded players faced their old teams for the first time on November 5 in Boston, the Stars drew first blood. Ex-Bruins Seguin and Rich Peverley scored Dallas' shootout goals to secure victory in that game.

    Eriksson, Reilly and the rest of the Bruins will have their chance to exact revenge when they visit the American Airlines Center in Dallas on January 16.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Ottawa Senators: Thursday, January 30

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    Ben Bishop returns to Ottawa

    The Ottawa Senators attempted a playoff upgrade at the 2013 trade deadline, taking advantage of an organizational glut of goaltenders to try to improve their offensive prospects.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman was looking for help in net, so he surrendered hot rookie Cory Conacher in exchange for Ottawa's third-string goalie, Ben Bishop.

    Judging today, the Lightning won the trade. Bishop has provided the goaltending stability that has eluded Tampa Bay in recent years, starting 21 games and posting great numbers with a 2.03 goals-against and .932 save percentage.

    Conacher was a fringe player during the Sens' playoff run last spring, with three goals in eight games. He has managed just five points in 28 games with Ottawa this season.

    The Senators and Lightning meet for the first time this season in Tampa Bay on December 5, but the intrigue will come when Bishop returns to the Canadian Tire Centre at the end of January to face an Ottawa team that's now ranked 26th in the league in goals-against.

Buffalo Sabres at New York Islanders: Saturday, March 15

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    Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson face their old teams

    On October 27, the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders swapped soon-to-be unrestricted free agents when Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson switched sides.

    Neither team thought it'd be able to re-sign its player, so they decided to take a crack at each other's challenge.

    The deal hasn't had a major impact on either side. Moulson and Vanek are both producing at about the same rate as before the trade, while the Islanders and Sabres continue to struggle.

    The NHL trade deadline is set for March 5, 2014. If Vanek and Moulson haven't already moved on to new squads as rental players, they'll have a chance to face their old teammates when the Sabres visit Nassau Coliseum on March 15.

New York Rangers at Vancouver Canucks: Tuesday, April 1

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    Alain Vigneault returns to Vancouver

    The final chapter of the NHL's first-ever "coach trade" will play out on April Fools' Day, when head coach Alain Vigneault and his New York Rangers travel to Vancouver to face the Canucks.

    Vigneault and the Rangers played a preseason game in Vancouver on September 26, where they lost 5-0 to John Tortorella's squad. This time, the result will count for two points.

    The former Rangers boss faced his old demons on November 30 when Vancouver was spanked by a 5-2 score at Madison Square Garden. Vigneault hopes that his homecoming will be more friendly. After seven years behind the bench in Vancouver, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, Canucks fans should give A.V. a warm welcome—as they continue to cheer for the home side.

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