BUFFALO — It was just after the morning skate, around noon, and Patrice Bergeron was ready to go to bed. He was standing in the visitors’ dressing room at the First Niagara Center, still feeling the effects of the trip home from Sochi, Russia.
He wasn’t alone. Loui Eriksson also had just come back from the Olympics, and wasn’t sure how he — or his body — would react to the Bruins’ 7:30 p.m. game against the Sabres, which is 4:30 a.m. in Sochi.
Despite the travel and the jet lag, both came back from their second Olympics pleased with the experience. It didn’t hurt that they also both came back with medals — gold for Bergeron and silver for Eriksson.
For Bergeron, these Olympics were different than in 2010 in Vancouver. Then, the Bruins center was Team Canada’s 13th forward, deployed mostly on the penalty kill and faceoffs. That wasn’t the case this time, with Bergeron among the team’s most important and best forwards, eventually moving up to a line with Sidney Crosby.
“It was great,” Bergeron said of his increased role. “It’s something that made it even more special, I think. Vancouver was amazing to win and be there, be part of the experience and get the gold medal, but every time you have a chance [to] help even more the team win, it makes you feel a little better about yourself.
“That was a great experience from Day One to the last day. It was something very special, something I’ll never forget, and I’m very happy and proud of the way we’ve all done it.”
That included Team Canada’s final game in Russia, a near-perfect 3-0 victory over Sweden for the gold.
“I would say the last two games were close to [perfect]. I mean, it was a great example of everyone buying in and just sticking to the system, playing to what the coaches asked us to play and we got the result,” Bergeron said.
That, though, was at the expense of an overmatched Swedish team missing some of its key players because of injuries and a failed drug test. But for Eriksson, who has missed 20 games this season with two concussions, the Olympics also provided a chance to get back his rhythm, in addition to a silver medal.
“I thought it really helped me to go over there and play a lot,’’ Eriksson said. “It’s fun games to play, too, when you get to the quarters and the semifinals. It’s important games. I’ll take a lot of things with me from that and go on from it.”
He added, “We have a tough stretch coming up here. I want to continue to work hard here and try to find my game. I’m looking forward to it.”
Although Team Sweden “didn’t come up to the level we should have” against Canada, Eriksson echoed Bergeron’s sentiments that were also expressed earlier in the week by Zdeno Chara and David Krejci.
Asked if he’d like to see the NHL return to the Olympics in 2018, Bergeron said, “It was an amazing experience being able to win two gold medals at the Olympics, the biggest sports event. It’s something very special, something I’ll cherish and I’m thankful for, so I would say yes.”
And as for that jet lag?
“I’ve just got to battle through, then we have two days — Thursday, Friday — before another game,” he said. “So hopefully that gets me back on schedule.”
Rest on the schedule
Coach Claude Julien said the best way to build in some rest for the Bruins’ Olympians was full days of rest, not limiting minutes as the team gets back into games. That was the reason the team decided to leave Tuukka Rask behind in Boston. As Julien said, “I don’t think worrying about their minutes in a game, cutting them down two, three minutes, is going to help them more than maybe a full day off during practices and stuff like that,” Julien said. “I’m looking more at giving them that opportunity.” . . . With the return to action after two-plus weeks off, Julien said the biggest issue for his players was likely to be their hands rather than their legs. “Your timing is a little bit off, even if you’ve practiced,” he said. “Practices and games are very different. So it’s going to be important for us to simplify our game, to focus on our skating a lot, and the hands will follow.” . . . Adam McQuaid has a chance to play Saturday if he continues to progress . . . Julien praised the job done by Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan, who coached the Latvian team at the Olympics. Latvia gave Canada a scare in the quarterfinals, in which they were tied, 1-1, deep into the third period. “They played with a lot of emotion,” Julien said. “We all know Teddy’s a good motivator.”