Training camp takes on Swedish flavor
Evgeni Malkin, of Russia, has requested tickets to the game in Sweden for a group of people coming to cheer him on, including his girlfriend.
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STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Team dinners, an outing to a museum, some down time in a vibrant European city, even a scavenger hunt that will have the Penguins running all over town are on the club's itinerary this week.
That doesn't sound like your typical NHL training camp schedule, and it isn't.
After arriving here yesterday morning and practicing in the afternoon, the team got a chance to conquer jet lag last night before a week that will mix working out, preparing for the regular-season opener and enjoying activities.
"We would like to get on the time here quick," defenseman Kris Letang said.
Although some players professed to be a little dazed from the redeye across the Atlantic, it was not readily noticeable in practice, which consisted of a 20-minute session of drills followed by nearly an hour of four-on-four scrimmaging.
Rookie defenseman Alex Goligoski, who could be counted on heavily early this season because of injuries, found that the prospect of participating in the NHL Premiere with regular-season games against Ottawa here Saturday and Sunday was muted by the six-hour time change.
"It's a different experience coming over here to play," he said. "We're a little tired right now. I've been on a bus [in the minor leagues] for quite a while, but never a flight like that."
Thursday, the Penguins have a side trip to Helsinki, Finland, to play an exhibition game against Jokerit of the Finnish Elite League.
The Senators are due to arrive in Sweden today and are spending most of the week training in Gothenberg.
"It's great for us," Penguins center Max Talbot said. "It's going to be a great experience for us as a team to play there. It will help to build team chemistry."
The Penguins typically would have had more than the three multi-session days of camp and four preseason games against NHL clubs they had here.
"Some of those things are the tough part -- a shorter training camp to get ready, less exhibition games," goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. "It shortens it a lot, but at the same time, I think it will be fun. It's a long season and it's good for us to have a chance to be picked to do this."
The adjustments should be worth it, coach Michel Therrien said.
"You've got to look at it like a great experience," he said.
This is different from a long, multicity, road trip -- such as the one late this season that will take the Penguins from Chicago to Dallas to Tampa Bay to Florida and finally to Washington.
Normally, the players get an itinerary from team staff members for road trips. For this one, they got a booklet that went beyond the itinerary to include weather information, security tips and other items.
They also got matching black track suits to wear on the trip.
"I like them," Fleury said. "They remind me of my junior years. We had to do so many long bus rides, we could always wear the track suits."
Because of the extent of this undertaking -- the NHL Premiere also includes weekend games between Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers in Prague, Czech Republic -- the NHL and sponsors are helping to defray some of the player expenses and assisting with things such as arranging transportation.
Some of the Penguins' European players have requested tickets because people from home can get to Sweden more easily than they can get to Pittsburgh.
Russian defenseman Sergei Gonchar had asked for about 50 tickets here and in Helsinki, mostly for friends making the relatively short trip from St. Petersburg, where Gonchar and center Evgeni Malkin work out in the summer.
Gonchar had to give those seats back after a dislocated left shoulder forced him to miss the trip.
Malkin still has a group coming, including his girlfriend, Oksana, a friend who doubles as his Russian agent and workout pals from St. Petersburg.
A few players, including Fleury and center Sidney Crosby, had previously made a quick stop in Sweden for an international exhibition game, but they weren't here long enough to explore.
"It was in and out, just a cold rink somewhere. I don't know where," Fleury said.
The past two Septembers, the Penguins spent time at West Point going through rigorous team-building exercises at the military academy.
They're hoping for the same type of experience here, but with a Swedish flair.
"Maybe it will help form a better bond, especially with some of the new faces we have," winger Pascal Dupuis said.
NOTES -- Winger Petr Sykora sat out practice as he continues to fight a respiratory illness. ... Defenseman Hal Gill (bruised knee) skated on his own before practice and took part in some drills but left the ice before the four-on-four play. ... The team skated at the older Hovet Arena, which is attached to the Globen Arena. Practice will be at Hovet again today as workers finish resizing the surface at Globen from the larger international sheet to the NHL specifications.
First Published September 29, 2008 12:00 am