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Kevin's Road Trip - Building Momentum

Tuesday, 11.04.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
Vancouver Canucks
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Kevin\'s Road Trip - Building Momentum
PART THREE: BUILDING MOMENTUM

Bryan Allen's in his third full season with the Canucks after three on the farm. He spent last year manning blue lines with Khimik Voskresensk of the Russian SuperLeague. Like Burrows, Allen knows how a chaotic ugly road trip can sap a team's spirit.

"The travel is hard and there are a lot of long flights," says Allen, balling up a wet practice jersey and tossing it into an overflowing laundry bag just out of arm's reach. "But I really can't complain too much. I played in the minors and I'll travel here any day."

"I definitely don't mind it, but who knows? If I play for 10 years and you ask me the same question, my answer might be different."

Nobody complains - at least not openly. Travel is part of the job and it's the same across the league. Still, there's an unmistakable weariness in the voice of veterans when they talk about the road.

Guys who have suited up back east will attest to the added difficulties of playing in the Northeast division where the distance it takes to play an opponent is measured in air miles.

It takes the Rangers less time to dip over the state line into New Jersey that it takes the Canucks to bus ride from LAX to the team hotel in Anaheim.

To their credit, none of the Canucks use fatigue as an excuse for a mediocre road record.

"I think it comes down to confidence," says Allen. "You get into a spell sometimes where you have that confidence on the road where you play that clichéd 'road game'. It's the same thing at home. It really comes down to just confidence."

Finding that confidence is the tricky part.

Anyone who's played team sports knows that it's easier to conjure that elusive feeling in a close-knit dressing room. That's why 'chemistry' is always the first culprit to get dragged under the media microscope when a team hits the skids.

The Canucks struggled to a 7-6-2 record in March and it was widely reported there was a serious fraction in the dressing room. Allen says that's not the case, even on the road where friction is heightened by fatigue and close quarters.

"It's fun when you have a good group of guys like we do have here. It's always enjoyable to go for dinner and things like that."

"If you ask the guys who took a year off, they were missing the road trips," explains Jarkko Ruutu. "That tells a lot. Sometimes obviously it's harder when you're tired and you have to move on, but I enjoy doing it."

"You go for dinner and sometimes it's 15 guys, and other times it's just two guys. Some guys have room service. Everybody is doing what they feel like. I don't mind it at all."

On Sunday night, only hours after the loss in Anaheim, a horde of players streamed past the hotel lounge en masse. It was their one free night in Los Angeles.

It's a testament to the team's unity that after a potentially demoralizing loss that same afternoon, they'd choose to stick together for dinner.

"Guys get along," says Ryan Kesler, "and that's the most important thing."

"I just think when you go on 14-day road trips and then you come home for four days and have to go out again, I think your wives get more mad than you do."

"But everybody in the league has to do it. It's all about how you deal with adversity and how you perform."

For the Canucks, that adversity starts with a win against the Kings in just over seven hours time. Another road triumph will not only strengthen their grip on a playoff spot, but will build confidence heading into a difficult three-game home stand. This stretch will determine just how many more road trips the Canucks will take this season.

Morrison finishes tying his shoes and only gets a few steps before a print reporter engages him in casual conversation about the weather outside Staples Center. Across the room, a teammate makes a loud crack about Morrison's star power and how he's graduated to doing exclusive one-on-one interviews. For the first time all morning, the mood inside the dressing room lightens.