It felt like Christmas morning yesterday when we had the entire team back on the ice for practice. It also made me realize that the start of the season again is right around the corner. Initially, we knew we needed the Olympic break as a team and as a coaching staff. It was good to get away for a couple of days. However, after a few days I was ready to get back at it and ready to start playing games again because I really enjoy coaching. It was a great couple of weeks and fun to watch the Olympics, but we started off with a job to do and we want to be able to continue to do that job.
We play 20 games over the next 40 days to conclude the regular season. That is a lot of games in not a long period of time, which is why the six practices that we have had and the last two with the entire team have been really important. We may only have two or three practices left in the season where we will be able to really practice. When you play every other day it is difficult to grind the players during practice because rest is better than work in some instances. We will practice, but it will be mostly to get their legs going. That being said, if we are not playing well then we will address things that we need to work on. At the end of our winning streak we needed to work on things because it was getting away from us. Before you know it April is going to be here and once April is here, you know the playoffs are right around the corner.
I have said many things about Alex Ovechkin
and people are probably tired of hearing me talk about him, but what he did yesterday is what makes him great. On Sunday, he was at the closing ceremony for the Olympics in Vancouver and then 13 hours later was on the ice practicing fully with the team. I wanted Alex at Kettler yesterday, but I did not expect him to practice. More importantly, he went around the room and gave every player a hug as if this was a group of friends that he really missed. I just thought that was so cool. I know he was tired and I know he did not have a lot of energy from traveling all night, but he practiced hard and that is why he is who he is and a reason why we succeed. The team practiced very hard yesterday, and it was not because I was out there yelling. It was because Alex was out there and they figured that if he was going to practice hard after traveling all night then they were going to practice hard.
Tomorrow is going to be a terrific test for us. Buffalo is a very good team and they always play us very hard. Ryan Miller will be rested because I doubt he is playing tonight in Pittsburgh, so he will come home to a hero’s welcome and the crowd will be energized and ready to go. The last time we were there he shut us out 3-0, and I think we had around 40 shots. It will be a tremendous test for us, but we are looking forward to playing again.