We are guaranteed to play 82 games a year and those are special days. There is a different sense of excitement on game days than any other day. You get to the office and cannot wait for it to happen.
I leave for work the same time every day. I try to leave my house at 6:20 a.m. so I can be here by 6:40 a.m. On a game day, the first thing I do when I get to the office is all the paperwork that needs to be done – like the lineup and the game card. Then I will start scouting and watch tape of the opponent we are playing, which is Atlanta this week.
Blaine Forsythe, who is one of our assistant coaches, handles all of our video needs and he gets to the office a little bit after me. When he arrives we will look at video together and we always start with our opponent’s penalty kill.
Our players will have an optional skate at 10 a.m. I talk to the media for a few minutes after skate. We have a power-play meeting at 10:45 a.m. followed by a team meeting at 10:53 a.m. In the team meeting we will go over a brief synopsis of what we need to think about for the game that night.
After practice, I will go home, have lunch and take a quick 20-25 minute nap. Then I will get ready to head to the game and arrive at Verizon Center around 2 p.m. and look at more tape. I will do what I call our “keys to the game” and put everything up on the board in the dressing room that needs to go up there. I want it there when the players come in, so they knew that we are ready to go and that there is no scrambling.
I talk to the media again at 5 p.m. for about five minutes in case they have any questions that were not asked earlier in the day. We then have our penalty-killing meeting at 5:30 p.m. Then at 5:40 p.m. we have a pre-scout meeting with the whole team that lasts about eight minutes. The players then have the next 30 minutes or so to get ready and do all their stretching and get ready for the game. For the coaches those are the longest 30 minutes. We are prepared for the game and are ready, but this time seems to go so slowly.
Our coaching staff goes out on the bench during warmups and we are looking for a couple of things. Dean, Bob and Blaine do all the line combinations and I look for a few little things on the opposing teams – whether their goalie does not look sharp, whether he is frustrated handling the puck or if any of their players look out of sync. It might work twice out of 80 games, but those are two times in 80 games that you have a better opportunity than your opponents do.
The coaches will then go back to our office and we will go over their lines. It is here where we determine if we want to match defense against their forwards or forwards against forwards. We exchange the lineup cards, and I put four bullet points together, which are real quick things I want to talk about with the team before the game. I go in the room with five minutes left on the clock and go over these items.
The coaching staff never goes out to the bench with more than three minutes left on the clock. That is a superstition thing of mine. After the game, I talk to the team for a few seconds in the dressing room and then the coaching staff head back to our office. We spend about 10 minutes in there discussing the game before I have to go and speak to the media. After I am done talking to the media, I head back to the coaches room gather up all my stuff, head home and get ready to do everything all over again.
Our next game is Thursday at Atlanta. John Anderson is a good friend of mine and he coaches the Thrashers. Last year, we played them opening night in Atlanta and it was his first NHL game and I was real excited for him. This year, I will not talk to him all week. For lack of a better term, he is now an enemy of the state. Atlanta has started off so well, so we need to make sure we are well prepared. They are a team that we believe will be a real threat to us this year, so we want to try and do well against them.