WINNIPEG - If today was a normal gameday, the St. Louis Blues would have woke up in their hotel beds in Winnipeg and boarded the team bus to the arena for the morning skate.
But because the NHL provides players with a three-day holiday break that forbids games, team practices or even travel, the Blues couldn't fly on Thursday and instead had to set their alarm clocks early Friday to board a 7:30 a.m. flight to Winnipeg.
After landing, the team went to Bell MTS Place for their morning skate.
The Blues will regroup at a Winnipeg hotel for about three hours before returning to the arena for their 7 p.m. matchup with the Jets - their first meeting since the first-round series between the clubs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.
After the game, the team will return home to St. Louis and is expected to land around 2 a.m.
"It's not fun by any means," Brayden Schenn said of the long day, which figures to last about 19 hours from the initial take-off in St. Louis until the wheels touch down again at Lambert International Airport. "But there are other teams in the League doing it. It is what it is. You just have to be mentally prepared to play tonight. I don't think your legs are going to feel as good as they normally do, but if you're ready mentally to play from the puck drop tonight, you're going to give yourself a better chance to win."
"We have to keep it simple, focus on the little details of the game, have good communication, be disciplined with the puck," added Ryan O'Reilly. "It's all those little things that I think, at the end of the day, will put us in a good spot."
The NHL schedule features 11 games on Friday - meaning 10 other teams are joining the Blues in traveling early in the morning.
Typically, the League requires teams to travel to their next city one prior to a game. This holiday break is a rare exception. The only other time teams make a complete roundtrip in the same day is for preseason games.
Despite the long day, Blues Head Coach Craig Berube said his team looks ready to go as they seek to extend their winning streak to seven.
"We've come off a three-day break, guys are rested, they looked good in the morning skate, they've got energy," Berube said. "Tonight is just about executing and getting your competitiveness up right away. After three days off, we've got to be competitive right away in this game."