HELSINKI — The business portion of the NHL Global Series trip for the Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets began Tuesday.
Each team had a spirited practice at a local municipal rink as preparations for regular-season games at Nokia Arena in Tampere on Friday (2 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, ALT, BSOH, SN NOW) and Saturday began in earnest, one day after each team arrived here.
The Avalanche hit the ice first and practiced for more than an hour. It was the first time they skated since a 5-4 loss at the New York Islanders on Saturday.
“Our schedule has been a little bit strange,” coach Jared Bednar said. “We’ve had days off stacked on top of days off, so really nice to be able to get the guys on the ice today.
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“We have another day off tomorrow. We’re trying to find a rhythm here a little bit and practice time will help us in that regard. We wanted to make sure we got the work done today before taking tomorrow.”
The players embraced it. Many stayed on well after practice was done, working on skills or fooling around a bit.
Colorado defenseman Devon Toews said that there is a sense of urgency for the Avalanche (4-4-1) to find their game after back-to-back losses to the New Jersey Devils (1-0 on Friday) and the Islanders.
Though the Avalanche players are excited for a day off Wednesday to sightsee and enjoy what the city has to offer, they also know it leaves them an open practice at Nokia Arena on Thursday before playing the Blue Jackets.
“We have a few more days and I think we’ll need it,” Toews said. “It’s nice to get on the ice here today. … We’re on a long trip here. We’ve been away from home for a while already and tacked on this trip on top of it is tough for us to deal with. But at the end of the day we’re here to try to win two games and we have to get back to our game.”
Video: Bednar, Toews, Newhook discuss Global Series
The Blue Jackets (3-7-0) also are looking forward to getting back to their game. They lost 7-1 at the Devils on Sunday and have harbored that bitter taste since.
Their work Tuesday was the beginning of the cleansing process in preparation for two games against the defending Stanley Cup champion.
“The legs are starting to get under us,” forward Jack Roslovic said. “We are a serious team and we need to start playing a little better.”
That is the message coach Brad Larsen has been preaching since the Blue Jackets arrived in Finland.
“We are in the regular season, this isn’t preseason,” he said. “Every game matters, especially where we are at right now.”
With that said, Larsen still wants his players to embrace the moment. He pointed to the way forward Patrik Laine skated Tuesday, almost dancing across the ice. Laine is from Tampere and will be playing in front of family and friends this weekend.
“It’s a pretty exciting trip for a lot of guys, some guys that are from here,” Larsen said. “For us as a team, as an organization, this is a neat experience.
“I think this a real good opportunity for the team to enjoy what Finland has to offer, but we have to make sure we are focused when we have our practice time and are getting ready for the games.”
They have a pretty good model to follow in the Avalanche, who Bednar says have become masters at balancing the competing demands of enjoying the process and being ready when necessary.
“I like to think that is how we try to go through the whole season, ” Bednar said. “You know, it’s a long season. It’s a taxing season. Obviously the game is the most important thing and you have to be focused and prepared for these games.
“But we want our guys to enjoy each other’s company and to go out and be able to do things and enjoy things away from the rink as well. This is special.”
Photo courtesy of: Columbus Blue Jackets