“It’s been a pretty heavy schedule for a lot of teams around the league. It’s an opportunity for us to keep them off the ice for a little bit,” Julien said after practice at Ristuccia Arena before boarding the team’s flight to Buffalo. “It was just to clear their heads a little bit, and get ready for the week. I think we made the move we felt we needed to make with this team.”
The short break was much appreciated by the players, especially heading into a week that includes back-to-back road games against divisional rivals Buffalo and Montreal, as well as a match-up against Washington back at home.
“Well, I think for a lot of teams it’s been like this and the two days is actually nice. We’re all rejuvenated, everybody’s ready to go,” said B’s winger Nathan Horton
“Everyone was excited to get back after two days. It’s been a while and it’s nice to have a couple days off.”
Veteran goaltender Tim Thomas
echoed his teammate’s thoughts, comparing the feel of this year’s schedule to that of a compressed Olympic year.
“Definitely, you know, we’ve had a heavy schedule. We went to the rink Sunday, but not having to go to the rink Monday, I think it’s a good physical and mental break.”
Thomas, who has gotten off to a quick 14-2-3 start this season, feels his team will be most successful if they do not look too far ahead and take it just one game at a time.
“First things first, you know. We’ve got tomorrow against Buffalo and we’ve got to make sure we get that win. We know what we have coming up between Montreal and Washington, but I think the key to the week is the start against Buffalo tomorrow,” explained the 2009 Vezina Trophy winner.
“We need to get off on the right foot and hopefully we can build from there and try to make it into a great week...We need to get off on the right foot for the week and get those two points in the bag before we look past that.”
As one of the more experienced members on the squad, Thomas feels the team as a whole is headed in the right direction.
“We’re finding ways to win for the most part and that is a really good thing. There are areas where we can get better, but I think we have been getting better in a lot of those areas, so I think we’re building and I think it’s coming along,” said Thomas.
“It’s great when you can go through kind of the building process, but still get wins while you’re doing it.”
Thomas, Horton and the rest of the B’s agree, though, that despite the heavy schedule, the Black and Gold have to make the most of all of their games whenever they are being played.
“It’s fun to play in those games, back to back games, and I think you just have to take advantage of it,” Horton said.
“We have a good couple games and a good couple weeks coming up.” ---Ashley Robbins