Dan Bylsma was back in familiar territory Tuesday afternoon, running practice and orchestrating drills on the whiteboard for Penguins’ practice at CONSOL Energy Center.
Bylsma has spent the last two-plus weeks as head coach of Team USA in Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. But now that the Olympics are finished, he is back in Pittsburgh with the Penguins.
Even though Bylsma is disappointed that Team USA did not finish the Olympics with a medal, losing in the Bronze Medal Game against Finland, he is ready to move on and throw all his energy behind the Penguins.
“You have to put (the Olympics) behind you,” Bylsma said. “The task at hand is coming back here and playing for the Penguins. That’s the best way to put it behind you.”
The Penguins are entering the toughest stretch of the condensed Olympic schedule. They reopen the season Thursday at home against the Montreal Canadiens. Then they kick off a five-game road trip, starting with the Stadium Series in Chicago on Saturday.
The Penguins finish the road swing with stops in Nashville, San Jose, Anaheim and back-to-back games against Washington – first in the nation’s capital and then the second half in Pittsburgh.
“We play a lot of games. We travel out to the west coast and back for back-to-back against Washington,” Bylsma said.
The Penguins had seven players participate in the Olympics: Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz for Canada; Jussi Jokinen and Olli Maatta for Finland; Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin for USA; and Evgeni Malkin for Russia. With a brutal travel schedule on the horizon the Penguins will have to be careful with the workload these players will shoulder (other than Martin, who is out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand).
“We have a lot of games checked in here. We have given consideration to the Olympians,” Bylsma said. “They’ve traveled and played hockey games. We’ve given that consideration. Goaltender, the number of games that we play and the number of games that Marc-Andre (Fleury) has played at this point and time.”
The Olympics are over. The NHL season is back in session. And focus has turned from gold to silver.
“The third thing out of Evgeni’s mouth was the Stanley Cup, coming back here and being focused on that,” Bylsma said. “There’s disappointment and congratulations. Now we have 24 games to get back and be focused on this team being the best it can be, getting to the Stanley Cup and winning.”