Adjustment period for everybody

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Mark Eaton had no trouble getting back on a regular sleeping schedule after the Penguins returned from Sweden Monday night.

All that took was staying awake for most of the flight back from Stockholm.

Eating, however, involved a bit more of an adjustment.

Not when Eaton ate.

How much.

It seems that, after dropping a few pounds while the Penguins were overseas -- "You're not used to the food over there, and the portions are a lot smaller," he said -- Eaton spent a significant chunk of his first day back in the United States trying to rectify that.

"I lost a little bit of weight in Sweden," he said. "So I made a point of eating everything [Tuesday]."

Happily for Eaton, his grazing wasn't interrupted by a practice; the Penguins didn't reconvene for a workout at Mellon Arena until yesterday.

And, while defenseman Brooks Orpik volunteered that, "I think the general consensus was that everyone felt pretty [bad] out there," coach Michel Therrien said he "liked the intensity" of the practice.

"[The coaches] said they wanted to keep the tempo up, so we were constantly moving around," Eaton said. "I'm sure that was part of the plan to help flush out our legs a little bit."

A decidedly unscientific sampling after the workout suggested that most, though not all, players and staff members believe they are pretty much over any significant effects of their trip.

"I'm on schedule perfectly already," Orpik said. "Going over there was way harder than coming back."

Self-induced sleep deprivation -- resisting the temptation to nap on the way across the Atlantic, so that they were ready to go to bed when they got back here Monday night -- seemed to be a staple in the approach of those who said they're back in their normal routine.

"I slept my normal eight hours [Monday night]," center Max Talbot said. "I'm not tired. I feel fine."

Others, including Therrien and forward Pascal Dupuis, haven't been so fortunate.

Therrien acknowledged that, "I was ready to go to bed at 8 o'clock" Tuesday, and Dupuis knows the feeling.

"I'm not close yet," he said, smiling. "I tried to keep myself up [Tuesday] until around 10 o'clock. Right after dinner, I almost went [to sleep] at the same time as the kids, around 8."

Nonetheless, Dupuis said he is confident he'll be back in his normal patterns well before the Penguins' next game, when New Jersey visits Mellon Arena at 7:38 p.m. Saturday. More important, the Penguins are confident any lingering effects of their time abroad will be gone by then.

"The 'travel legs' and the fatigue will be out of our systems by Saturday," Eaton said.

At the very least, the Penguins will have a favorable schedule over the next 10 days or so. Their next four games are at home, and they won't leave town again until they play in Boston Oct. 20.

That's a striking contrast to what Anaheim, then the defending Stanley Cup champion, went through a year ago.

The Ducks opened the regular season with two games against Los Angeles in London, then had to play at Detroit, Columbus and Mellon Arena in a span of four days before returning to southern California. Coincidentally or otherwise, Anaheim went 3-6-2 last October.

"The way the league set it up this year, they did it right," Orpik said. "We have a lot of time to get going."


Dave Molinari can be reached at dmolinari@post-gazette.com .


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