THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO — When the Anaheim Ducks visit Montreal’s Bell Centre on Saturday night, the focus will be on the return of Habs captain Saku Koivu.
Maxim Lapierre will also be making a return to Montreal, and while he’ll be out of the media spotlight, his former teammates might find out how infuriating the agitator can be to play against.
“We’ll see Saturday,” Lapierre said after the Ducks lost 5-2 to Toronto on Thursday. “It depends on the score, but for sure I’m going there to play my role and that’s how I’ll show up.”
Lapierre, who was dealt to the Ducks on the last day of 2010, carved out league-wide reputation as a trash-talking pest in his four-plus seasons with the Canadiens.
He said with Koivu’s return, the always-electric atmosphere in Montreal will be even more vibrant.
“Of course it’s going to be emotional, first of all for Saku’s comeback and at the same time after a short period of time I’m coming back and playing my old team, so it’s going to be a big night,” he said. “It’s going to be weird playing at home against the Canadiens. It’s going to be a lot of emotion and I need to play a big game for my team.”
Habs fans can be notoriously tough on players who used to wear their team’s colours and Lapierre said he’s not quite sure exactly what kind of reputation he’ll get. It’s also not something he’s going to lose sleep over with his current club scrapping to get into the playoffs.
“You never know in Montreal, but it doesn’t matter,” he said. “We’re in a tight race for the playoffs and the only thing that matters is that our team wins.”
Lapierre was moved to the Ducks for defenceman Brett Festerling, who’s currently with the Canadiens’ American Hockey League affiliate in Hamilton. Unhappy with the limited playing time he was seeing under Montreal coach Jacques Martin — often just over 10 minutes a game — Lapierre made it known to management he would welcome a change of scenery.
“With the coach we had, I wasn’t playing my role, so it was time for me to have a new start and that’s what we talked about before the trade,” he said.
The scrappy forward was initially credited with his first goal as a Duck in Thursday’s loss to Toronto, but video review revealed the goal rightfully belonged to Brandon McMillan.
With captain Ryan Getzlaf out of the lineup, Lapierre played much of the third period on the top line between Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry, though that’s not where coach Randy Carlyle envisions him long-term.
“We’re still trying to find a comfort zone with Max,” Carlyle said. “We think he can slide into a third-line checking role for us and that’s really what our expectations are, to put him in that role and we’ll see.
“Lapierre is still a work in progress for our group.”