Training camps open around the league Thursday and Friday but a few days earlier in southern California. The Anaheim Ducks will hold their medicals Monday and hit the ice Tuesday while the Los Angeles Kings open their camp Monday, the two clubs beating the rest of the league to the ice because of their trip overseas later this month.
The Ducks not only open camp early but without Conn Smythe Trophy winner and captain Scott Niedermayer, who is staying home until he figures out his playing future.
“Obviously there are a lot more distractions at this point on our hockey club this year than there was last year,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle told The Canadian Press. “We’re going to open up three days prior to most clubs.
“We’re going to start playing pre-season games right on the 13th (Thursday against Los Angeles). We’re going to play seven games in 14 days before we head off to London.”
The trip is a neat idea by the NHL, which perhaps one day will feel out the rest of Europe for possible expansion. For the two head coaches involved, it means more work, their camps greatly affected as they travel halfway around the world.
“I think it’s going to be great and I’m very serious about that,” insisted Kings head coach Marc Crawford. “I think this is a great privilege.
“From our standpoint, it’s a little bit far to go but, hey, when you’re all said and done in this game this will be one of the highlights of it. Going to London and playing the first-ever regular-season game there – you’re being a part of something that is going to be special.”
This isn’t Crawford’s first September across the ocean. His Vancouver Canucks held part of training in Sweden before the 2000-01 season.
“It can be really good,” Crawford said. “What I really liked about it that year is that it allowed us to really get our team together.
“And now for us, we’ll be away from the 19th to the first (Oct. 1). That’s a good amount of time.”
Crawford also likes the fact his team will travel light. Only 25 guys are going to Europe – 14 forwards, eight defencemen and three goalies.
“From that standpoint, I think it’ll be good for our group because we’ll hopefully come together a little bit quicker,” he said.
Crawford, though, doesn’t have Carlyle’s headaches right now. The Ducks open camp just under 14 weeks after sipping champagne from the Cup, and return without their most important player in Niedermayer, not to mention without 48-goal man Teemu Selanne. Life goes on, says Carlyle.
“As coaches, you can’t live in the wish world,” he said. “You can only deal with what you have.
“We have to move on without them. It’s a cruel part of the business. We can’t allow these issues to take any focus away from our task at hand.”
The Ducks won’t get to ease into the season. A pair of games in London against the rival Kings, Sept. 29-30, sets up a difficult early stretch.
“Then we come back and play Detroit, Columbus and Pittsburgh (on the road) and those are all going to be home openers,” said Carlyle. “The reality is, we’ve been dealt this hand, and we have to accept responsibility.
“But we’ve got a pretty good hockey club. We feel good about our group.”