In three years I feel like I have played hockey in all corners of the world.
Not quite, but close enough.
Not to take anything away from Sweden, but it is certainly good to be back in North America. I have been to southern California, across the pond to Sweden and now to the soon-to-be frigid northeast city of Buffalo. Regardless of how many frequent-flyer miles I picked up, it’s good to settle in to what feels like home.
Although the talent level of players is just about the same in Europe as it is in the NHL, the style of play on this side of the Atlantic suits my game much better. The smaller ice surface, the familiar system and, of course, the physicality of the game over here is tailored to my play, rather than the run-and-gun system in Europe.
I’m also glad to say how easy it has been to familiarize myself with the Buffalo Sabres organization. On and off the ice, all of the guys here have great character. From the players right up to the management, they’re all stand-up people who take the time to talk to you and make you feel welcome.
One of the first things that struck me about this team is how tremendous they are fostering their young prospects in the system. Guys like Jason Pominville, Dan Paille and Drew Stafford were all prospects at some point in this organization and now have integral roles with the Sabres.
Buffalo isn’t the biggest-budget team, so they have their share of obstacles to overcome and I think they have done an outstanding job with what they have; it’s a credit to the players, management and staff.
Training camp is going well, but it is still way too early to determine my place in the organization. There isn’t a whole lot of feedback at this level, so I’m trying to focus on things that are within my control.
Apart from the obvious goals of winning and helping my team win, my only other goal is to make sure my physical conditioning is at its peak, so I can take my on-ice performance to the next level.
Over the summer, I’ve incorporated a lot of leg-strength training into my workouts to increase my speed and agility. It has been a summer filled with body squats and ladder workouts, that’s for sure – and it appears to be an autumn and winter filled with the same. The leg workouts are part of my workout before and after practice every day.
Since signing with the Sabres, increasing my leg strength has been my top priority and it’s an area of my game I hope to continually improve throughout the year. What it comes down to now is making sure I stick to the workouts throughout the entire season.
The pre-season is well underway, but all I can continue to focus on is my training to ensure my on-ice performance garners enough attention to earn a spot on an NHL blueline again.
The key is to prepare - and prepare properly. Hopefully that work ethic will be reflected in my performance on the ice.
Defenseman Joe DiPenta returns to the NHL for a fifth NHL season after spending 2008-09 with the Frolunda Indians of the Swedish Elite League. The 30-year-old, who won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2006-07, will blog throughout the season about his experiences on the Buffalo Sabres blueline. Read his other blogs HERE.