Suffice it to say, it was good to sit at the Ice Haus and see the boys skating as they begin to get ramped back up after almost two weeks off. Only one active player not in Sochi was missing: James Wisniewski was not on the ice with a sore foot.
What that also means is that both Blake Comeau and Marian Gaborik were back on the ice, neither of them wearing a no-content sweater. What THAT means is that Gaborik has been cleared for contact. Today's skate was heavy on drills and light on contact, so there's no real sense of how he is responding to contact, but he said afterward that he felt just fine, and that there were no real restrictions on contact as the practices ramp back up. He expects to use the practice time over the next week to figure out if there are any lingering issues.
Jared Boll was on the ice, though he skated on his own and didn't participate in any drills. When I left the building around 3:30, he was still skating by himself on the ice working with a stick and puck.
And, of course, there was the result from Sochi that saw Team Russia bounced from the tournament, which means the remaining four Jackets will be back soon. No official return date was given when I asked a couple of folks, but the words "pretty soon" were used.
So, as the playoff sprint is about to get underway, the Jackets may be in a rare spot compared to other teams in the league: they might actually be 100% healthy.
Two players I got a chance to really talk to were Jack Johnson and Ryan Johansen. I asked them if the break slows any of team's momentum, or whether it's really just a good chance to recharge the batteries. "Recharge," said Johansen. "You don't want to think like that. You want to think, 'Here we go again. Let's go.' Speaking for all of the guys, I think we all feel the same way right now. It's pedal to the metal from here on out. It's all about getting ready for New Jersey."
For his part, Johnson agreed, noting that it really wasn't even that long of a break overall, and that the players have been playing hockey all of their lives.
Some other notes:
- Both Johnson and Johansen commented that they almost prefer the condensed schedule (24 games in 45 days). They mentioned the preference of routine and of it being easier to focus on each game and the moment when there isn't time to stop.
- To that end, Johnson is truly a no non-sense guy. When I asked about the difference this year given that it's his first playoff push in the east, and thus there won't be nearly as many miles traveled down the stretch, he basically told me it shouldn't make any difference with the travel. While that may truly be his opinion, I have to think it does a little bit. But, one of the nice things about Jack: it's no excuses. Like, ever.
- When I asked Johansen about the temptation to scoreboard-watch, he surprised me a bit with his answer: "I think you want to. It kind of reminds you how important every game is, because there are going to be teams having success. It's motivation when you're looking at that." Not what I expected him to say, I will confess, but an interesting take none-the-less.
- Johnson told me he hasn't watched a single second of the Olympic tournament. I will leave you all to dissect that.
- Conversely, Gaborik said he watched Team Slovakia play yesterday, and that he talked to Slovakian teammates throughout the tournament. When asked if it was hard to watch, he said: "It is. It's hard to watch. But, I was cheering for the guys, and it was too bad we couldn't generate more scoring." I wonder who could have helped them score a little more?
- When I was talking to Matt Calvert about today's Olympic results and whether or not any money might be changing hands for Friday's Canada/US game, R.J. Umberger deadpanned from two lockers away: "Wait, who's playing?"