Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk called the trip to China a second summer, and with good reason.
Sure, the group that was fortunate enough to head overseas had quite the bonding experience both on and off the ice. But even the training sessions and the pair of exhibitions with the Flames in Shenzhen and Bejing didn’t bring the training camp vibe that they’re all used to back home.
Saturday was different as the China group touched the Warrior Ice Arena surface for the first time this preseason. The excitement of reuniting and skating with their domestic counterparts, indeed, brought that training camp vibe.
“It feels nice. We haven’t had a full squad practice yet, but it was nice to see everyone and be back at Warrior here and back in North America,” DeBrusk said following the first of two training sessions at the Brighton practice facility. “Everyone was excited to see each other after a long time. It felt like it was almost like a second summer [in China] so it was nice to finally come back [to Boston] and get back to work today.”
Returning to work also gives a chance for Bruce Cassidy to finally evaluate his team firsthand. In terms of recovering from the long 14-hour flight back home, the Bruins bench boss didn’t have the same luxury as his players.
With his whistle in hand, Cassidy got his first glimpse at the domestic group while also receiving player evaluations from assistant coach Joe Sacco on Friday. This, along with the next round of cuts and the challenges ahead entering the final week of the preseason, tempered Cassidy’s excitement of having everyone together.
“It’s two groups so we’re really not all together,” said Cassidy, who will be behind the bench in Detroit for the B’s preseason tilt with the Red Wings Saturday night. “We’re progressing towards that but [we’re] not altogether [yet]. So until we’re truly together, it’s hard to be excited about that part.”
The bonding experience in China was unique for Charlie McAvoy, who has had quite the traveling experiences in his young career through both the Bruins and his time in the USA Developmental program. Even then, he felt a little odd with half the team staying in Boston.
“I didn’t realize until we got back about the bonding. But you leave back half the team here and it’s a vital part to the team,” McAvoy admitted.
“I joked around with [Anders] Bjork and I come home and I’m like ‘hey I forgot that we’re even on the same team.’ Because they’ve been back here working hard just like we were over [in China], but it’s finally good to get back together and now we put it all together and get in a practice feeling and start helping each other get better.”
Adjusting to the time difference in China was difficult for DeBrusk, McAvoy, Brad Marchand and the rest of the travel group. Readjusting to eastern daylight time upon returning home wasn’t as bad.
Rest assured, there’s still some transition. But getting the first domestic training session out of the way and reuniting with the rest of the group was reassuring.
“I’ve had better sleeps but it’s nice to be back home,” Marchand said. “It makes it a lot easier to kind of transition back and get our legs back and just feeling good again.”
Marchand was part of the season-opening trek to Prague in 2010-11. We all know the ending to that journey.
Will there be a repeat performance with hoisting Lord Stanley in June?
“If it’s a repeat of 2011 then yes,” joked Cassidy. “I know where you’re going with that. I’d love for that to happen, trust me.”