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A walk to remember

Saturday, 10.02.2010 / 11:36 AM / 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- The reaction overwhelmingly was positive.

The Carolina Hurricanes’ players, coaches, staffers and several others gathered in the lobby of the Kempinski Hotel here at roughly 3:30 p.m. local time (7:30 a.m. ET) to embark on a brisk, hour-long walk through the streets of bustling downtown St. Petersburg.

They walked through Palace Square, past the Alexander Column and the famous State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace and onto Nevsky Prospekt, the most famous street in the city, before turning back and going through the square and back to the hotel.

"With our afternoon tilt (Friday) and going right to the airport, I'm sure that gear is a little wet and cold from the flight over here and there's no sense in getting the boys upset this early in the season; we have all season to get them mad at us. From that standpoint, we just felt it would be best getting them out, moving a little bit, experiencing a little bit of the city, and then we'll get back to business (Sunday)."
-- Ron Francis

It was just what everyone needed to get the blood flowing again after sitting on a plane for nearly 11 hours and then another 45 minutes on a bus for the ride from the airport to the hotel.

"Really great," Tuomo Ruutu told NHL.com. "Perfect."

All things considered, the Canes' top brass ideally would have liked to have gotten the players on the ice Saturday afternoon for a workout, but as the Minnesota Wild learned Friday, that would have been impossible.

The Wild's gear, still wet from playing Columbus Thursday, froze while in cargo during the overnight flight to Helsinki, rendering it impossible for the team to practice Friday when it arrived in Finland's capital city.

"With our afternoon tilt (Friday) and going right to the airport, I'm sure that gear is a little wet and cold from the flight over here and there's no sense in getting the boys upset this early in the season; we have all season to get them mad at us," Carolina associate coach Ron Francis told NHL.com. "From that standpoint, we just felt it would be best getting them out, moving a little bit, experiencing a little bit of the city, and then we'll get back to business (Sunday)."

After practicing Sunday, the Hurricanes will play SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL Monday at 11 a.m. ET.

Carolina GM Jim Rutherford credits Francis, the Hockey Hall of Famer, for doing the diligent work necessary to make sure the team did everything it could to acclimate to the eight-hour time difference between here and Raleigh, N.C.

"He did a lot of work with other teams, what they did and what they wished they'd have done, so hopefully we're prepared for getting everybody ready as quickly as possible for the time change," Rutherford told NHL.com.

Francis said he spoke with Chicago coach Joel Quenneville about his experience in taking the Hawks to Zurich, Switzerland, and then to Helsinki last season. For good measure, Carolina coach Paul Maurice spoke to his good friend, Florida coach Pete DeBoer, about his NHL Premiere experience with the Panthers last season.

Hurricanes strength and conditioning coach Peter Friesen, who led the team on the walk Saturday, provided a wealth of knowledge from his 27 years working with Hockey Canada's national teams. The three Finnish players -- Jussi Jokinen, Joni Pitkanen and Ruutu -- also put in their own words of advice.

Together, the Canes' staff felt the best recipe would be to get the boys out doing something in the fresh air just a few hours after landing because it would force them to stay awake before they had to go to a mandatory dinner with representatives from the NHL Players' Association. By the time that dinner was over, it would be around 9 p.m. and OK to hit the sack for a good night of sleep.

Going by that plan, the players should be spry by Sunday morning and their body clocks well adjusted to the new time zone.

"That's what our trainer is telling us to do, just try to stay up as long as you can," defenseman Joe Corvo told NHL.com. "I don't think they want us napping too much in the day time until we get a good schedule going and we get on the time here."

The players, and most everyone on the flight over, didn't have much trouble getting at least a few hours of sleep in before the plane flew through the overcast skies here to touch down at 12:41 p.m. local time. After a little more than two hours in the air, there was a stop-over in Halifax for a crew change and some refueling, but after that it was seven hours straight to St. Petersburg.

"It was pretty uneventful, pretty fun and pretty easy," captain Eric Staal told NHL.com. "We had the stop-off in Halifax and then I think most guys went to sleep. When we woke up they were serving us breakfast. So it wasn't too bad, actually. I think everyone is tired right now, but we'll be energetic when we get started."

Carolina is scheduled to practice at the Jubilee practice facility Sunday morning before the team hops on a bus for a guided tour of the city.

"With our schedule it affords us a couple of days to enjoy the city, enjoy the surroundings, get a little of the country's cultures," Francis said. "That's what we're trying to incorporate."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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Philadelphia is where I started my NHL career and this is where I want to be so I am really happy. This definitely gives me a lot of confidence by the Flyers showing that they have confidence in me. I know they want to see me get better as a player and this is the place to do it.

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