The Los Angeles Kings left for their first East Coast road trip on Thursday morning to play in Buffalo, Detroit and Columbus over the next six days. With a frontloaded home schedule, the Kings have only 19 games left at STAPLES Center of the 51 left in the season. Transitioning from playing 22 of 31 games at home to extended time on the road is physically demanding, but the Kings have youth on their side.
“I think I am so young that I don’t even realize [the difference]” said Drew Doughty about playing on the road versus at home. “I know that maybe some of the older guys, maybe they can tell you a little bit different, but I don’t even notice it. I just go out there and do the same thing I would at home.”
Everyone should be so lucky.
“It’s the time zones that get you” said 37-year old veteran defenseman Sean O’Donnell. “If you’re used to going to bed at 11 or 12 and getting up at 8 or 8:30, changing time zones two or three times is what does you in.”
For some, road trips can be a vacation rather than a hardship.
“I think that most guys on the road get more sleep than at home” said defenseman Tom Preissing. “Guys with kids, you don’t have your kids jumping on you at seven o’clock in the morning.”
Preissing is perhaps projecting a bit, as his wife is currently five months pregnant with their first child. The impending addition to their family makes each upcoming trip for the 30 year-old defenseman a little harder than the last.
“Its sucks, but it won’t be too bad now because we are both kind of used to it. She is in a spot in her pregnancy where everything is just kind of going smoothly. When it’s going to be hard is that she is due in the beginning of April and we are gone most of February and March. That’s where it is going to start to get really difficult.”
One upside is that Preissing will have his teammates with him while he is across the country thinking about his unborn child. Road trips can bring a team together, and Coach Terry Murray wishes that there could have been some earlier in the season to break the ice between rookies, veterans and new acquisitions.
“Road trips are good, good for the team” said Murray. “It comes a little bit later for us than we would like, we would probably want some of this a little bit earlier in the season so we could get a bonding trip where players get to know each other and hang out with each other. “
A solid support system makes it less stressful to move across the country at a moment’s notice without your gear and no idea of how long you will be staying. This is exactly Teddy Purcell did last week when he was recalled from the Manchester Monarchs and arrived to the news that he would have to practice without his gear, which was slow to make the trip from New Hampshire.
“I was a little nervous at first, but Terry joked with me that he wouldn’t evaluate me too hard the first day of practice when I didn’t have any of my gear” said the 23-year old forward. “But luckily it came in time for the game, and hopefully it’s here to stay.”
Eager to prove he deserves a permanent roster spot, Purcell is just excited to be traveling with the Kings. Before he got the call to come to Los Angeles, Purcell was on an extended road trip with the Manchester Monarchs, hitting eight cities in twelve days.
“It’s pretty much planes, trains and automobiles down there, commercial flights and you’re getting delayed. You’re crammed in, in the middle of the aisle next to someone, and you gotta get off and play the same day or the next day. It’s a lot tougher. Everything up here is first class, and it makes life a lot easier.”
Easier physically, but long road trips and heavy travel schedules can put pressure on a player’s personal relationships. For those without children at home or on the way, the break can be relaxing.
“I am engaged right now,” said O’Donnell, “and those three and four day trips are kind of nice for a relationship. You get away and you miss the person for a little bit.”
None of the players will have time to miss anyone at home too badly on this trip. Once in Buffalo, the team has to practice, adjust to the time, eat, sleep and play hockey before flying to Detroit after the game Friday night. Coming off of two OT losses this week against the Sharks and Rangers, the Kings have an added weight on their young shoulders. But one guy is not going to complain.
“It is tough living out of your suitcase in a hotel and always eating out, but things could be a lot worse” said Purcell. “There is no other place that I would rather be right now and I am pretty pleased with how things are going.”