Sergei Bobrovsky had been in Columbus for a matter of hours before he found his way back to the Blue Jackets dressing room.
A once-in-a-lifetime Olympic experience on home soil in Sochi, Russia, came to a disappointing conclusion with a 3-1 loss to Finland in the quarterfinal on Wednesday. Along with his three Blue Jackets teammates, Bobrovsky caught a flight back to the United States the next day.
Bobrovsky was back at the rink Friday morning, took another day to adjust to the nine-hour time difference, and returned to practice Sunday at the OhioHealth Ice Haus. He had been looking forward to this, he said, getting back at it with his teammates and preparing for a 24-game sprint to the finish line that begins Thursday night in New Jersey.
Following an hour-long formal practice that concluded with some one-on-one work with goaltending coach Ian Clark, Bobrovsky said he would always reflect fondly on the experience in Sochi - but wouldn't deny the extreme disappointment associated with the Russians' early exit.
"The set up was awesome and it was an awesome atmosphere," Bobrovsky said. "I really enjoyed (it) and I'm really proud of my country. But now it's 'life goes on,' you know? I have big goals here and it's already behind us. We have to be focused here."
Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and a guy who had been red-hot going into the Olympic tournament, only started two of Russia's four games and recorded a 22-save shutout against Norway in the qualification playoff.
Bobrovsky said he harbored no hard feelings that Semyon Varlamov, who opened the tournament and was pulled midway through Russia's quarterfinal loss to Finland, saw the bulk of playing time for the home country.
"(Varlamov) played well and I think he deserved to play, too, so I wasn't disappointed," Bobrovsky said. "This tournament isn't about ambition or something personal - it's all about the team and all about the country. I was prepared to support my teammates and support Varly as much as I could."
And it didn't take long for Bobrovsky to shift his focus. With 24 games remaining and the Blue Jackets sitting one point out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, he said he's had to quickly put the Olympics in the rear view mirror and zone in on the Blue Jackets' first game back.
The intense pressure of the Olympics is not unlike that of a playoff race - though Bobrovsky admitted the Olympics were a much different level of pressure. With little margin for error down the stretch, the Blue Jackets will need Bobrovsky to be at his best each and every night, and it's something he is fully prepared to do.
"I would say Olympics was kind of like playoff games too...it's so much pressure," Bobrovsky said. "Mentally, I'm ready to go here and excited to help us get to the playoffs. It wasn't a 'fun' break, you know, because of the hard games. I think the experience really helps me.
"With the importance of games, you don't need to tell us. It's a pretty tight schedule and standings, and like I said, I'm ready to work hard and help my teammates win."