After a long summer of wait and concern for all involved, Drew Doughty was back to normal Monday, going through a full-team practice in Hamburg with Willie Mitchell as his partner. Doughty skated with the group on non-game players on Saturday in Las Vegas, but today was his first time on the ice with the group after he missed the entirety of training camp. Doughty is expected to play against the Hamburg Freezers tomorrow, and after practice today, here were his thoughts about his return to practice…
DOUGHTY: “It felt good. I thought it would feel a little worse, considering the long flight and the sleeping patterns and whatnot, but I felt good out there. To be honest, it’s just great to be back with the boys and be on the ice with the team.’’
Question: When you were in London, how often were you skating?
DOUGHTY: “Five times a week. So I was skating a lot, but it wasn’t the same, because those or kind of like kids or whatever. So it wasn’t the same as playing 1-on-1 against a big guy like Hunts [Trent Hunter] or Pens [Dustin Penner] or someone like that. I needed to get this practice in before I played in a game, for sure.’’
Question: Getting back out there with Willie, that familiarity, that must help the transition…
DOUGHTY: “Oh yeah, for sure. It’s really nice coming back and feeling comfortable with a D-man. I’ve played with Scuds [Rob Scuderi] or J.J. [Jack Johnson] or really anyone on the back end, but playing so much with Willie last year and getting back out there with him, we’re getting back to the good habits and it’s going to be a lot of fun.’’
Question: And for your first game, they send you out there on the big, international ice surface…
DOUGHTY: “It’s going to be a little tougher, just because there’s a lot more room to skate. European teams usually have a little more speed, rather than grit and size, so it’s going to be a tough game tomorrow.’’
Terry Murray arranged with Freezers team officials for each team to dress 22 players. That’s normal in the Freezers’ league, but two more than NHL rules. Murray said he will use the opportunity to dress eight defensemen and ease Doughty back into action.
MURRAY: “We don’t have to rely on him to play 27 minutes this way. We can get his feet under himself and start to feel some game pressure.’’