Tom Kostopolous and Anton Babchuk are back, although only one will be playing against the Canes tonight at the RBC Center.
For Kostopoulos and Babchuk, it's their first visit to the RBC Center since the Nov. 17 trade in which Carolina sent the two players to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Ian White and prospect Brett Sutter. Babchuk will be in the Flames lineup, but Kostopoulos has been suspended for six games by the NHL for his blindside hit on Detroit's Brad Stuart in Friday's game that resulted in Stuart breaking his jaw.
Kostopoulos has been told by team officials not to discuss the incident or suspension, so that was off-limits after today's morning skate. The forward did say it was "little bit weird" to be in the RBC Center in another uniform and noted the trade caught him off-guard.
"I was really surprised and didn't see it coming," he said. "I was kind of under the impression that was the team we were going to go with (this season) and put a run together and get to the playoffs. Although our schedule was so tough at the beginning, we thought we were in a decent spot considering our schedule."
Notice Kostopoulos used the words "our" and "we." It's as if mentally he still hasn't completely made the switch.
But he's a part of the Flames now. And coach Brent Sutter said he decided to bring Kostopoulos on the team's four-game road trip, to practice and work on his conditioning, even though he is suspended.
"He's a part of this team ... and we want him around this team," Sutter said. "He's good to have in the room."
Kostopoulos would prefer to be on the ice, and especially tonight.
"I would have liked to have played against my old team," he said. "I have a lot of guys there I liked. All my teammates were great. The coaches were good to me. The organization and the fans were great to me, so it would have been nice to play tonight but nothing you can do about it now."
Babchuk returned from Russia and the KHL after last season and signed a one-year contract with the Canes. But the defenseman said he was not angry or upset about the trade.
"I was surprised by the timing and it was a little bit unexpected," he said. "That's fine. It's part of the business. There's nothing you can do about it. It's not the first time I've been traded."