The league-mandated bye week seems to have come at the perfect time for the Boston Bruins, who have posted wins in six of their last seven matchups since returning from a nine-day break between contests.
Good on Bruce Cassidy's club for making the most of its time off, because this roster isn't in line for much of a reprieve over the next couple of months.
"It's kind of like a marathon here," Sean Kuraly said of Boston's schedule.
He's not kidding, given that Boston must slog its way through four sets of back-to-back slates over a three-week stretch in February. It's all part of a sprint to the finish that will see the Bruins play 16 games over the final two months of the regular season, all setting up for what could be another two months of grueling play in pursuit of Lord Stanley's Cup.
Still, for as much as the hectic itineraries and frequent flights can add up over the course of a long season, things could always be worse — especially when it comes to comparing travel in the NHL to the grind that comes with traveling in the lower levels of the sport.
“You kind of forget about it,” Chris Wagner said of traveling down in the lower ranks. “Well, actually you kind of don't."
Whereas many members of the Bruins' roster can recall tales of bus breakdowns, snowstorms and other horror stories during their tenures in the AHL, college and the junior circuit, things are thankfully much more streamlined up at the top level. Bruins team travel and services manager Whitney Delorey keeps tabs on the club's demanding itinerary, while the team is often able to cut down on long hauls by way of chartered team flights.
"What's nice is we don't deal with as many surprises, like in juniors," Kuraly said. "That's huge. If we were dealing with those still with this schedule, that would be really tough. So we were lucky to have Whitney, who keeps everything on schedule. We definitely don't take it for granted."
Things might be considerably less hectic these days when it comes to hitting the road, but many years of overnight bus treks and weather woes have led to some great stories from within the B's locker room. As such, we asked a few Bruins players — what was your worst hockey-related travel story?
Swift Current Broncos, WHL — Swift Current, Saskatchewan
"There's a couple, but that's what makes it fun. That creates bonding, is that everyone's going through it together. I would say one of those — one of those 20-hour trips where I was doubled up. So you're on a normal bus and doubled up the whole time. So you don't have a lot of room. I do remember one time we were, I think we're driving home from, I want to say Everett (Washington), the Everett Silvertips (WHL) or something like that and we were coming home and our bus broke down. It was like four in the morning and it was around Christmas time and no one knew where we were.
"And so what we had to do is all the rookies would try to push the bus — try to get going. And it wasn't meant to be. So we were out in the snow, four in the morning. We played technically that night before and just got speedbagged. So everybody was miserable. Then we were trying to push the bus out that didn't have anything, then we had to wait four and half hours, unload everything from our bus, onto another that one.
"So that was kind of a little bit hectic. Middle of nowhere. Then you're going on for 16 more hours to get to the frickin’ province of Saskatchewan. So that's probably one of my worst stories from hell, I guess. Just because I was a young guy and a rookie at the time and that's a pretty big thing in junior. I remember just the whole, we were all kind of laughing about it. Like I said, there's always pros and cons to different situations, but it's never easy when you're up at 4:30 in the morning in the wilderness trying to push a bus. When everyone else was chirping and you had to push it. So that kind of sucked."
US National Team Development Program — Ann Arbor, Michigan
"Oh man. I know one.