A day after media obligations, headshots and off-ice physical testing, the New Jersey Devils are finally back where they belong: on the ice. Friday marked the on-ice testing portion of training camp, with skaters and goalies running through an array of skating drills to begin to get their legs ready for the intense NHL season.
The 57 players at camp were split into seven groups and asked to perform several skating drills. From a quick transition of skating backwards to forwards, and skating on one knee, each group got their fair share of a workout. Friday's focus was all on skating ability and testing.
Friday's skating test is used for the benefit of seeing how well conditioned the players are at the start of camp, and also gives the coaching staff a look at who they are as teammates.
"It tests their mental toughness," Coach John Hynes said, "and I think when you have situations like that, it brings guys together, when they have to push each other and help each other through a difficult conditioning test."
The conditioning drill tests not only the players' mental fortitude, but is a good gage of how well they've prepared for the year over the course of the offseason.
"We don't want the players to train for a test, we want them to train to be good hockey players," Hynes said. "If they do the right things in the summer, and do the test like today, if they've trained to be better hockey players first, they usually test well in these types of tests."
It may not be the most popular part of training camp, but everyone has to go through with it -- and they all feel a sense of relief when its completed.
"It was a tough day, it's short but it's tough," said newcomer Marcus Johansson. "You skate until you can't skate anymore for 15 to 20 minutes."
Regardless of the test's difficulty, players were just happy to be back out on the ice after a long summer. A new season means a blank slate for everyone and a fresh mentality. A key word used by several different players was "optimism."
"I'm really excited," said John Moore. "Optimism abounds this time of year. It's time to go to work. You've put in so much time and effort in the offseason to prepare yourself for days like today. It's fun to be out there!"
Moore wasn't the only one to use the word "optimism."
"It's that time of year where we start to ramp it up and get going," said captain Andy Greene. "With a first real practice happening [Saturday], everyone is really excited. This is the best time of year. You have all the optimism in the world."
The team made good use of their practice facility, each group skating in 45-minute sessions. Prudential Center was not kept empty, however. Just like the players, it too was getting ready for the season, with the main ice surface being put down in the morning.
The ice, just as the players, is getting ready to host the first preseason game coming up on Monday, Sept. 18, when the Devils host the Washington Capitals.