WILMINGTON, Mass. — After 12 days in Europe and two days of rest, the Bruins returned to the familiar surroundings of their practice rink at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday. They came back with just one of the two wins they sought in Prague, but they gained a lot more than just two points on their trip.
The tour through Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic gave the Bruins a chance to bond, and they returned confident that the camaraderie forged on the road will pay off on the ice this season.
“No doubt, the guys are probably as close as you can get,” said forward Blake Wheeler. “Between going to Vermont and being over there [in Europe] where you’re forced to be together for 12 days straight. We had a great time together. Guys were together all the time. It was great to see guys that maybe weren’t hanging out so much in the past all of the sudden going to dinner together and doing stuff together. It was great to see that kind of team unity to come out and I think that was one of the many perks to come out of a trip like that.”
The players also benefited from having the last two days off after returning late Sunday night. That gave their bodies a chance to shake off the jetlag and readjust to the Eastern Time Zone, while also leaving a little time to get reacquainted with their families.
“I think it was great for the players to come home feeling that we’ve accomplished something as a team,” said coach Claude Julien. “Coming back .500 isn’t the greatest, but it’s still better than coming back 0-2. But also they’ve had a chance to spend a couple days with their families and recover. They’ve come back here with some smiles and our guys look excited to get on the ice today.”
Wheeler’s smile was mixed with a quizzical look, as he admitted he was still a bit out of sorts from the long trip.
“It was weird coming home,” said Wheeler. “It felt like we were teleported and all of the sudden we were back in Boston. It was kind of a strange feeling going from there to here. It almost felt surreal. So it’s nice to be home and it was nice to get those couple of days off to let your body catch up. But it’s like the start of the season again. You’ve got to put that behind you and focus on this weekend.”
The Bruins will practice for two more days in Wilmington before returning to action with a game at New Jersey on Saturday. Then things pick up in earnest next week with a home-and-home series with Washington and a visit from the Rangers.
“We know we have some tough games coming up, but we also have some days where we can get absolutely ready for these games,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “We have enough days to get the time zones back to normal and get some rest. When you get your home opener later, two weeks after everybody else, it feels kind of funny.”