Bruins rested up after European stint

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The Boston Bruins returned to their regularly scheduled program Thursday morning at Ristuccia Arena.

For anyone watching the Bruins' practice, you would have never known the team is fresh off its recent European trek, on which it opened the regular season with a pair of games against the Phoenix Coyotes in Prague.

Once the Bruins returned home with a 1-1 record, there was a strange feeling. Most of the rest of the NHL teams also had started their respective regular-season schedules in North America, and because the Bruins were so far away, they feel kind of out of the loop.

Boston coach Claude Julien gave his players Monday and Tuesday off before returning to the practice ice Wednesday with a couple of players not participating.

On Thursday, it was back to normal.

"Right now, we're just getting ourselves into the same groove as everybody else has been in, so it is kind of like a season opener for us because it's going to be our first league game in North America," Julien said.

Even though the Bruins are back in the country, they still have two more road games before their first home game at TD Garden next Thursday. Boston will travel to New Jersey to face the Devils on Saturday, and then it's off to Washington on Tuesday to play the Capitals.

When the Bruins completed practice Thursday, the players were still talking about the recent trip. They considered it an important bonding experience. More important, there don't seem to be any negative effects.

A lot of advance planning went into the Bruins' trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Prague. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli spoke with other GMs whose teams had similar trips in the past, and the recurring theme he heard was the importance of rest, both overseas and when the team returned to the States.

So, the Bruins were given two days off this week to recoup and get their bodies back on an Eastern Time Zone schedule. After Andrew Ference and Dennis Seidenberg missed practice Wednesday, everyone was back on the ice Thursday as Boston held an uptempo practice with no signs of jet lag.

"I like what I've seen so far," Julien said. "We've practiced well. We usually play the way we practice; so far our guys haven't disappointed. Hopefully it carries on and we can get ourselves ready for the weekend."

Because of the hectic preseason schedule, Julien knew it would be necessary for the players to get some rest and relaxation.

"I think it was important for a lot of reasons," Julien said. "Our camp had a lot of activity in it with exhibition games, team building, promotions, so on and so forth. It wasn't an easy camp, and at one point when you've been away for 15 of the last 16 days, it's just as important to get your rest and get reacquainted with your family. We forget, sometimes, that there's more than just hockey when it comes to your life, and you have to allow those things to happen."

Bruins defenseman Seidenberg began the 2009-10 season as a member of the Florida Panthers, who began that season playing against the Chicago Blackhawks in Helsinki. Following Bruins practice Thursday, Seidenberg said jokingly that he's been sick both times he's traveled overseas to start the season. He missed practice Wednesday with a bit of intestinal turmoil before getting back on the ice.

"Your body definitely needs [rest] after a long trip like that," Seidenberg said. "You're definitely broken down and you lose sleep for the first few days, but it's good to have a few days to get adjusted again and get back at it. We've had a couple of good practices, and I think everybody should be ready to go [on Saturday] at 100 percent."

Most hockey players have experienced international competition at some point in their careers, both at the amateur and professional levels, so this trip wasn't anything too out of the ordinary for the Bruins.

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, who posted a shutout victory Sunday against the Coyotes, has plenty of international playing experience. He believes the players have recharged the batteries and are ready to begin their North American trek.

"The way the schedule ended up working out makes a huge difference," Thomas said. "With us having these five days [between games] to recover and get back on this time schedule. If we had played a 7 o'clock game with two days of being home, it would have been like playing at 1 in the morning in Prague. That would have been difficult, but this gives us a chance to reset, and I don't feel like it's going to be an issue at all.

"It feels like a longer preseason because we haven't had our regular-season home opener. It would be different if we had it and then we weren't home for three weeks, but because we haven't had it yet, it feels like a protracted preseason. It's not an issue in my head, and I don't think it's an issue in anybody's."

The two days off earlier in the week and now three straight days of practice have worked out perfectly for the Bruins. The only thing left to do now is play in front of their fans, which will happen when Boston hosts the Washington Capitals on Oct. 21 at the Garden.

"When it's time to play that first home game, we'll be ready and excited to be home again," defenseman Mark Stuart said. "It's been a while, but we're just trying to win hockey games right now. It's doesn't matter where they're at."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. You can follow him on Twitter.