Michel Therrien came to town and saw that the land where Mellon/Civic Arena stood is now a parking lot.
"I was asking the taxi driver what they're going to do with that space," the Montreal coach said before his team's game against his former team, the Penguins, Tuesday night.
"I've got some great memories of my time in Pittsburgh," Therrien said. "I learned a lot. It's a great sports city, great fans. I enjoyed myself, and my family enjoyed itself."
Therrien was hired by the Penguins in December 2005 and took them to the Stanley Cup final in 2008. He was replaced by Dan Bylsma in February 2009, four months before the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.
Therrien was at Consol Energy Center as a scout for Minnesota, but this was his first game behind the bench in the newer arena. He was out of coaching for more than three seasons before he took the Montreal job for this season.
The Penguins showed a video tribute to their former coach during a first-period timeout, bringing polite applause.
Asked he has mellowed since leaving the Penguins, Therrien laughed and said, "Maybe. I've got more gray hair."
Therrien sounded a bit nostalgic for the old, now-razed arena.
"I didn't mind the Mellon," he said. "I didn't mind that arena, even though this building, they did it first class."
Armstrong on Crosby
Canadiens winger Colby Armstrong started his career with the Penguins and was a linemate of Sidney Crosby.
He has watched as Crosby, after two seasons gutted by injuries, has regained his world-class form.
"He's Sid. He just plays," Armstrong said of Crosby, who entered the game atop the NHL in scoring with 53 points. "It seems like the puck just finds everywhere he is on the ice. He makes so much happen out there, not just for himself, but the rest of his team, guys he's on the ice with.
"His behind-the-back passes, his picking up pucks in his feet and making plays at top speed, I don't know how he does it. He's a special player. After the tough time he went through, I'm sure it feels good for him to be back and going like he is."
Cooke fights injury
Penguins left winger Matt Cooke hasn't missed a game this season, but he has been, at best, a semi-regular at practice since he blocked a shot March 16 by the New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi. Cooke was hit on the top of the foot and left that game briefly.
Cooke did not participate in the morning skate Tuesday, and Bylsma admitted that Cooke is playing through an injury.
"It's a best-case scenario for him to just be able to play and not get on the ice two skates in a day," Bylsma said.
"Yup, he's playing with an injury, or is hurt a little bit, but he's been 100 percent when he's played."
Despres sent down ... briefly
Defenseman Kris Letang was activated from injured reserve and returned after missing three games because of a leg problem. To make room for him on the roster, the Penguins assigned rookie defenseman Simon Despres to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
It is believed Despres' assignment is temporary. The 23-man roster limit will be suspended for the balance of the season April 3, which is the trade deadline.
General manager Ray Shero gave a vote of confidence to his nine defensemen Monday and said any moves before the deadline would be "procedural."
Despres has two goals, seven points in 24 NHL games this season.
Glass raves about Murray
Penguins winger Tanner Glass offered an intriguing scouting report on hulking defenseman Douglas Murray, acquired Monday in trade with San Jose. Earlier in his career, Glass played for Vancouver.
"Forechecking Doug Murray is not fun," Glass said. "When you hit that guy, it's like you hit the boards, [but] it's a human being. I think he'll help us come playoff time.
"I've fought him before. He's not an easy fight. He's a big man. Really strong, and he's got that mean streak."
Murray is expected to join the team today for practice.
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (shoulder) missed his ninth consecutive game, although Bylsma said Malkin is "very close" to being ready to return. ... The Penguins scratched center Joe Vitale and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. ... Montreal held an optional game-day skate.mobilehome - penguins
For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @pgshelly. First Published March 27, 2013 4:00 AM