LAS VEGAS - If NHL rules didn't dictate a visiting team's travel plans, it may not be too much of a stretch to think Ron Hextall would have his players dressed in full pads on the charter and bussed over from the airport to T-Mobile Arena just hours before game time Thursday.
While one may see the glow of neon lights radiating excitement and energy, the general manager looks at it as the possibility of one big distraction.
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"The Vegas experience is certainly unique," Hextall said. "But it's not somewhere I would want our players necessarily at a couple of nights before the game."
Last season, a handful of NHL teams experimented with coming to Las Vegas a few days early to get their "sins" out of Sin City so they could then turn their focus and preparations toward the game.
"You can see the appeal," defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. "There's great restaurants, there's shows and everything on the go."
Whatever approach other teams tried, it didn't work out too favorably as the Golden Knights finished with 29 wins at T-Mobile Arena, the second-most home victories in the Western Conference. However, the schedule played out perfectly for the Flyers, as the team played a Saturday game in Arizona the previous day and arrived in Las Vegas later that night for a Sunday game, one the Flyers won, 4-1.
The Flyers' itinerary Wednesday had them on an early flight out of Vail, Colorado, following a three-day team-bonding trip that included river rafting, skeet shooting and ATV tours. Within hours, coach Dave Hakstol had them skating through a rigorous 90-minute practice followed by team meetings back at the hotel.
You get the feeling it was all part of management's master plan of flying, skating hard along with the previous days' activities, so the players couldn't muster the energy to partake in a real Vegas experience.
"Few guys went shopping, few guys sat at a blackjack table," Sean Couturier said. "But I think guys were in bed pretty early resting for tonight's game."
Had the Vegas trip fallen later in the season when the schedule becomes a little mundane, the players would have had this game circled on the calendar. However, by starting the season here comes an enthusiasm that's more geared toward the excitement surrounding a new season.
If the Flyers had any trouble falling asleep, it wasn't because they were on a roll playing the roulette wheel.
"It's that first game of the year sort of thing," James van Riemsdyk said. "Everyone's got the same sort of excitement, butterflies and all that good stuff. You find it a little bit tougher to get some sleep, but this is what I've been waiting for since camp started."
"Everyone's dialed in at this point," MacDonald said. "You're anxious for that first game and coming in, you want to be prepared."