For NHLers, the 82-game hockey season revolves around routines: when to wake up, eat, drive to the rink, practice, stretch, workout, nap, play, sleep, and rest. It becomes a methodically calculated science.
Every now and then those routines are interrupted and switched up due to shifts in the schedule. A big change for the Blue Jackets tomorrow will be their 3 p.m. puck drop against the Florida Panthers at Nationwide Arena.
The Blue Jackets haven’t played an afternoon since their Columbus Day matinee against the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 12 at First Niagara Center, but the players said they are excited to compete against a good team in front of an afternoon crowd at the home barn.
“It’s nice. I think everyone likes it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told BlueJackets.com. “It just doesn’t really eat up your whole night. You take that chunk out of the middle of the day and then you can do whatever you want.
“I like going out for dinner after. Saturday night, you can go out or do whatever you want, it’s nice to do that, especially on the weekend. It’s nice to have that time after the game to just relax.”
But before the players can relax and enjoy their Saturday night, they have to take care of business.
After thrashing the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, the Blue Jackets wasted no time and were back at it on Friday afternoon for a light practice.
“I mean, everyone’s different. Some guys like to skate. Some guys like to rest,” forward Jared Boll said. “I think it all depends on your body, your age. It’s never a bad thing to go out there and get the legs going, especially with a three o’clock game tomorrow.”
Boll, a veteran in his ninth NHL season, agreed with Murray in that afternoon games can provide a much-needed break in the schedule.
“You just get right into it and it’s not a full day of doing stuff,” Boll said. “You don’t really get a nap, you kind of sleep in a little bit and then eat and come straight to the rink. So the day’s a little different, but it’s not too bad. Afternoon games are always fun. I wish we played more.”
Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said he too enjoys an afternoon game, but — as all coaches do — he worries about how it will impact his players and their readiness.
“With those afternoon games, I think as a coach, you’re always concerned,” Tortorella said. “I like them, because I think it gets away from not over-coaching. You don’t have so many meetings before and the guys play. I always worry about the players understanding the (start) time change.
“They’re creatures of habit and so you’re always thinking about that. I don’t want to overstate it, but just the readiness of the start of the game I think is very important.”
In terms of preparation, Friday’s practice was a good start. After that, it’s up to the players to make sure they're ready.
Murray said having a practice the day before the game will be helpful since they won’t have a morning skate on Saturday. He also has a pretty good idea of how his morning will go.
“I’ll probably eat breakfast and then just come to rink. It’s nice, because you don’t have to wait around all day,” Murray said. “You wake up, eat, get to the rink and play.”