STOCKHOLM -- Despite a seven-hour overnight flight, the pace of practice and volume of hooting and hollering from the Buffalo Sabres was impressive when they took the ice at Ericsson Globe for the first time Monday.
It was the start of preparations for the 2019 NHL Global Series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The first game is Friday (2 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1, NHL.TV). The second game is Saturday.
The Sabres were on the ice for almost an hour in a skate that was light on battle drills but heavy on smiles. That's likely because the six Sweden-born players on the roster were too excited to be tired. Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin appeared to be the ringleader in the enthusiasm department throughout the skate.
"It's a super-unique experience for [the Sweden-born players] to come home," Sabres center Jack Eichel said. "You know, I have never seen [Dahlin] so excited. He was moving us along. He is really enjoying it."
Dahlin, 19, is the youngest of the Sweden-born players on the roster, so he had some youthful energy going for him, But the rest of the contingent was also jovial. Joining Dahlin in the homecoming are forwards Marcus Johansson, Johan Larsson, Victor Olofsson, defenseman Lawrence Pilut and goalie Linus Ullmark. Pilut was called up from Rochester of the American Hockey League just in time to make the trip.
None of the six players is from Stockholm, but each has previously spent time in the capital city to play hockey and/or enjoy vacation time with family.
"It's unbelievable that we are here with our team," Dahlin said. "It feels weird to see all the guys walking around on the streets and to see Swedish stuff. It is fun for me and them."
It is an opportunity for the Swedes to show off their culture and the things that define them. It is also a chance during hockey season to be around those closest to them, something they generally forfeit when they join the NHL.
"It really is a cool experience to play in front of all your family and friends who may not get the opportunity to go to the U.S. to watch you play," said Johansson, in his first season with the Sabres and 10th in the NHL. "It's very cool to have everyone at the same time to watch you. It's a special thing that you don't get to do very often, so you have to try to enjoy it."
The Sabres will enjoy it immensely for the next 36 hours. They have no on-ice activities planned until Wednesday. The remainder of Monday and all of Tuesday will be spent exploring the culture, architecture and cuisine this city has to offer, and the players from Sweden will be tour guides.
Johansson provided his teammates with a spreadsheet that details the best places to visit. Dahlin plans to take his roommate, forward Casey Mittelstadt, and whomever else he wants to take along to some of his favorite haunts. Among the stops will be a store specializing in Swedish candy and a fast-food burger shop called Max Burger.
"That's something you have to try, it's good," Pilut said.
But more traditional fare will also be consumed. Dahlin said he will take teammates for his favorite Swedish meal.
"Meatballs with mashed potatoes and brown sauce, it's delicious," Dahlin said, breaking into a huge smile.
No matter what the Sabres decide to do in the next day and a half, there is no wrong decision, said Ralph Krueger. The Buffalo coach has visited Stockholm many times for international hockey competitions during his time with Switzerland's national team.
"On multiple levels, Stockholm is a magical city," Krueger said. "The history, you will feel it walking around in Old Town or along the water. You will feel the heartbeat of the Swedish people.
"[This is] one of the special cities in Europe for sure. Everyone that comes over here is going to have a great time."
But is there a concern that the Sabres will have too much fun being tourists and not be ready for the first game Friday?
No, Krueger said. He skated the Sabres hard Monday and they will have highly structured practices Wednesday and Thursday. He said he believes the players will slowly acclimate to the six-hour time change and be mentally and physically ready by Friday.
"This is a young, energized group," Krueger said. "They will be locked and ready to go on Friday. We'll be fully adjusted. You could see the energy was high and they will fall into bed tired tonight. We feel good with Wednesday and Thursday being full practice days, something rare in our season when we can really prep ourselves for Friday. The guys will be fully adjusted."