VANCOUVER – If longtime Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy needed a reminder that his travel schedule this season would be an entirely different animal than what he was used to, the Sharks’ current five-game road trip is a good place to start.
San Jose is midway though a zig-zag trek across the western half of North America. The Sharks started with a 1500-mile flight to Winnipeg, and worked their way backwards to Calgary. The current stop in Vancouver will be followed by a return flight back east to Edmonton, and will continue on to Chicago. The Sharks will fly home after the game against the Blackhawks on Sunday, and when they land, they will have accumulated approximately 6,400 miles, or enough to go back and forth across the continental United States.
The players and coaches will have to adjust their wrist watches on every trip, too, changing time zones before each of the five games. That prompted Kennedy to quip: “You change time zones like you change your underwear. It’s crazy. I can’t believe it.
“It helps a lot when you have a nice plane, and the staff has been great. It’s been a little bit difficult, but everyone’s been really helping me out in trying to get used to it. It’s not that bad, but it’s the time change that kills you.”
The Sharks will travel the most miles in the NHL by the time the regular season concludes in April. Gone is the annual trek in February when the Sharks had to vacate their building for a tennis tournament, but the current trip is a prime example of how much harder it can be in the Western Conference when compared to teams in the East, many of which rarely have to take flights that are in the air for more than hour.
Of all the road trips this season, the current trip is the most peripatetic of all. Calgary and Edmonton are in close proximity, and splitting them up with a stop in Vancouver is a bit nonsensical.
“We discussed it before we started. It doesn’t seem right to have to make the extra miles, but that’s the hand we’re dealt,” Dan Boyle said. “We’re going to deal with it the best we can, but it seems pretty unnecessary.”
Couture said: “I don’t know who scheduled it, but they definitely didn’t do us any favors with the way they did it. … We’ve got a good plane, so we can’t complain.”
If there are any positives to the 82-game slate, it’s that the Sharks have just 10 back-to-back situations, tied for a league low. That at least allows them some opportunities to rest and recover while on the road, but practice time can still be at a premium, especially with the league-mandated days off that came with the new collective bargaining agreement.
On Wednesday, the Sharks held practice in Vancouver, after arriving here in the early morning hours following a flight from Calgary. It wasn’t exactly at a breakneck pace, though.
“We have to make sure that we’re getting the right amount of rest. It takes away from some quality practice time,” Todd McLellan said. “You could see today we weren’t out there for very long, and the intensity wasn’t very high. That was by design.”
While Kennedy was clear in relaying the difficulty of the schedule, he’s hopeful that it could help later on. After they get home next week, the Sharks have just one more road trip that is longer than three games, in early December.
“I think that’s what makes a team strong,” Kennedy said. “When you have to battle through being a little more tired than other teams, I think it helps you in the long run, because you know how to prepare.”
Boyle said: “It’s nice to get it out of the way earlier than later, and hopefully we’re fresher come March.”