-- If there's one thing hockey players don't want to do, it's treat Game 7 like it's different from the 43rd game of the regular season.
"It's the same boring schedule as all we had before," Washington right wing Viktor Kozlov
said about how the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins
will handle the hours leading up to Game 7 Wednesday night at Verizon Center (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).
For Kozlov and most every other Washington player, that means going according to this schedule.
– Arrive at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
-- Hit the ice for their pre-game morning skate.
The coaches will drill them for a short while and some, like Alex Ovechkin
, may stay on the ice for only 10 minutes or so, just enough to work up a sweat, get the legs moving, the blood flowing and the heart pumping for the day.
-- When the skate is over, the players will be welcomed in their dressing room by the media, and there should be a swarm of both print and broadcast reporters along with cameramen Wednesday morning.
-- By the time the media has left the dressing room in Arlington, the Pittsburgh Penguins
will be hitting the ice at Verizon Center for their pre-game morning skate. Roughly half of the media covering Game 7 will be over there, including some that quickly made their way from Arlington, which is a 20-minute drive away.
-- As the Penguins practice - theirs will be similar to the Capitals, but perhaps just slightly longer - the Capitals will be able to eat lunch in one of the party rooms at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Some players will partake while others will bolt for home.
-- When the clock strikes noon, every player will be out of the Capitals' facility and either on his way home or already there. The Penguins will return to their hotel for a pre-game meal after their media availability in the visitor's dressing room at Verizon Center.
-- The players will attempt to get in a pre-game nap. For some, like Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom
, who is 21, it can last up to two hours. For others like Kozlov, the nap is usually shorter.
"I could sleep better when I was younger," the 34-year-old Kozlov said.
While the players are sleeping, the coaches will likely continue to pore over video and their keys to victory.
-- When the alarm buzzes in the players' homes or hotel rooms, it means it's time to get ready for the game.
The players will get themselves dressed in suits - they are professionals, remember - and head off to the arena.
-- The Capitals are on their own to get to Verizon Center and they have to arrive by 5 o'clock. The Penguins will take a bus and arrive by 5, too.
This is when they'll start to realize they're arriving for a Game 7.
said their thoughts on the way to Game 7 "may be a little bit different because obviously you know it's a Game 7, not a Game 1. You want to win every game, but Game 7 is a little bit different because you know if you do lose you're toast, you can't play anymore."
-- For the next 90 minutes, the players will spend time getting mentally ready by taping their sticks, stretching and a handful of them even kick a soccer ball around in the hallway outside of their dressing room. Penguins left wing Matt Cooke
likes to throw a football around.
-- With their blood flowing now, they'll strap on their pads, jerseys and skates and take the ice for warm-ups. After some shooting drills and line rushes that last 15 minutes, they'll hop off and let the ice crew go to work with one final surface clean before the game begins.
-- In the 15 minutes between when they leave the ice after warm-ups and come back into the red den of hysteria that will be Verizon Center, the players will usually be restless in the dressing room as the respective coaching staffs try one more time to go over the keys to the victory.
-- Then, the Capitals behind Simeon Varlamov and the Penguins behind Marc-Andre Fleury
will storm onto the ice for Game 7.
The starters will line up on their respective blue lines as Bob McDonald
belts out the Star-Spangled Banner. The two centers will head to the red line faceoff circle and the referee will drop the puck.
Away they'll go in Game 7. No hold's barred. Winner takes all.
"Everything is based on routine," Poti said. "And, everybody has their routine that they know will get them ready and make them the most fresh for the game."
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