-- Hockey players can be notoriously light travelers.
For short road trips it is not uncommon for NHL players to pack very little, and for a one-day trip a bag might not even be involved. That wasn't the case for the San Jose Sharks
on their current seven-game trek to the eastern United States that will span nearly two weeks.
"Yeah, we've got the extra bag this time," defenseman Dan Boyle
said. "We usually pack pretty light, but you need the extra bag on this one."
The Sharks will face the New Jersey Devils
at Prudential Center on Friday and then fly to South Florida for a game Sunday against the Panthers. Friday's game is the fourth on a trip that has included stops in Boston, Washington and Columbus and will finish with contests against Florida and Nashville before heading back to California.
Being away from HP Pavilion actually started with a game at Anaheim, but a couple days off before the contest in Boston allowed the team to go back to San Jose before departing.
"I think in our organization players just know it is happening. Chicago has their circus trip. We have our tennis trip," San Jose coach Todd McLellan
said, referring to the SAP Open, which takes over HP Pavilion every February. "We just know it is there and it is not out of the ordinary. The players know it is there and we just have to play the games. It doesn't matter where they are."
Added Ben Eager
, who joined the Sharks from Atlanta last month: "I was pretty used to them being in Chicago for three years and I kind of missed them. Being on the East Coast you're kind of in and out everywhere. You're home a lot, but it seems like almost every other day you're on the road and then back. At least in the West when you're on the road, you're on the road and when you're home, you're home."
This trip has been incredibly successful for the Sharks to this point, as they've posted four straight victories and continued their recent run of success.
San Jose is 9-0-1 since a six-game losing streak and is fourth in the Western Conference but with the same number of points as Pacific Division-leader Dallas, after being outside the top eight in the Western Conference not that long ago. The Sharks are facing one of the other hottest teams in the League on Friday -- the Devils are 11-1-2 in their past 14 games and trying to get back into playoff contention.
"I think it is important for us to focus," Boyle said. "We've put together four wins on the road here, but it would be probably easy to take a night off and let down, but I don't think we can afford that given our position with where we're at in the standings."
Not only is this an incredibly long trip for the Sharks, but it is a diverse one, as well. Three days in Boston at one end of the trip and then three days in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Nashville at the other should make for some drastic changes in the weather.
It also makes packing for a trip like this a little more challenging.
"You kind of get used to it from previous years," forward Ryan Clowe said. "It is funny to see the young guys because they bring like four suits and six shirts, but you know you only need a couple suits. They give us a thing with the weather schedule beforehand and you can pack some sweaters if needed and maybe a pair of flip-flops as well. It is funny packing, but you get used to it."
Added forward Devin Setoguchi
: "You just put a whole bunch stuff in a suitcase. Most of the time you are in a suit and a nice shirt anyway, so you don't need to over-pack."
Handling the logistics of such a trip is a critical part of making it a successful one. The Sharks practiced at Agganis Arena on the Boston University campus on the days before and after the game against the Bruins before travelling to Washington.
The team took Thursday off instead of practicing at Prudential Center after playing back-to-back contests against the Capitals and Blue Jackets. They are scheduled to practice at two different rinks in South Florida, with a game at BankAtlantic Center in between.
"It starts in the summer. When the schedule comes out we plan for where we want to be, where we want to practice," McLellan said. "We look at the layout of the schedule to try and determine a rest day and then go backwards or forwards from there.
"The travel out here is actually easier, believe or not. When we're out on a seven-game road trip and the flights are only an hour or 40 minutes, it makes it a lot easier than flying three hours somewhere out West and through time zones."
The players also scheduled some activities on this trip to keep things interesting. There was the always-popular rookie dinner in Boston (for the veterans, at least), and many of the players went to the National Archives during an afternoon off in Washington.
Given the next stop on the journey is South Florida, expect some of the Sharks to find some time for the beach, as well.
"That's another thing you look forward to when you see the long road trips on the schedule. You always see where you can squeeze in a rookie dinner," Eager said. "We definitely ate well that night, compliments of the rookies."
Added Boyle: "Florida is always nice. I started my career with the Panthers and I still have a house there, so it is always nice to go back there. It is always nice to visit New York City, too."