The Ducks’ migration south from Vancouver is not complete yet. And why would it be, with the myriad of medals to sort through – seven of them, the most of any team in the NHL – not to mention the gamut of emotions that come with them?
Maybe it’s not that surprising that goaltender Jonas Hiller, whose Swiss team was eliminated by the United States in the quarterfinals, chose not to watch the gold medal game between the U.S. and Canada on Sunday.
“I had family in town. I’ve seen enough hockey games until the end of the year. I didn’t really feel like I had to see hockey again,” Hiller said.
“I have to take my days where I can.”
Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Scott Niedermayer, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Whitney, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu weren’t in practice Monday, but they’ve got time. The Ducks’ next game isn’t until Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche.
Not every team is quite so lucky; the Avalanche actually have a game against the Detroit Red Wings tonight. Most NHL teams will resume play Tuesday.
Not only are the Ducks starting late, they’re starting at home. Eight of their next nine games will be at Honda Center, the lone exception being Saturday’s contest against the Phoenix Coyotes in Glendale. For players like Hiller who need to unwind, that can be a good thing.
“They’re going to get back with their families and get back into their comfort zone,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “They’ve been under a microscope all of the better part of two weeks here. As the tournament went on, that intensified. I’m sure they’re looking for a little peace and quiet at some point.”
While the Ducks’ Olympic haul represents a point of organizational pride, it also represents a challenge. Especially for the five players who played Sunday, the Games might be the emotional peak or valley of the entire year. Re-assuming the mentality needed for the season’s final 20 games -and perhaps beyond – might be easier said than done.
“It’s fine and dandy to go out there and compete, but the challenge will be the emotional part that they’ve been experiencing,” Carlyle said. “Now it’s coming back to work. We think that we have to do a good job supporting them and helping them. We think the group that’s here has to be prepared to provide some energy for our hockey club, so these guys can get back, get their feet underneath them and come prepared to play.
“We know the level of players they are. It shouldn’t take very long to get acclimated again.”
“There shouldn’t be an excuse for us not being ready,” he said.