STOCKHOLM – To hear captain Jack Eichel tell the story Monday afternoon, Rasmus Dahlin was like any excitable, antsy teenager looking forward to going home.
As one of six Swedish players on the Buffalo Sabres' roster, Dahlin got that chance on an overnight flight Monday and then stepped foot in his home nation's most famous hockey arena for practice. All the Sabres have been looking forward to this trip, but it's a seminal moment for the team's natives of Sweden.
"I've never seen 'Ras' so excited," Eichel said with a laugh. "It seems like he had his bags packed in the car the whole day yesterday and he was ready to go. He was moving us along. He's really enjoying it. It's going to be an awesome experience for them."
"The flight here was super exciting. I could barely sleep," Dahlin said. "We're finally here. It's unbelievable to be here with the team. It feels weird, but it's really fun to see all the guys walking around on the streets to see Swedish stuff. It's fun for me and it's going to be fun for them."
It was off the plane around 10:30 Stockholm time Monday morning, relax for a couple of hours and then to Ericsson Globe, the site of the NHL Global Series games Friday and Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It was a lively 55-minute workout, with the Sabres doing several skating and shooting drills to get their legs moving and then finishing with some cross-rink 3-on-3 at one end of the ice. And the players were far more boisterous than normal during the drills.
Coach Ralph Krueger said he swelled with pride walking back into the arena, where he had coached several times and was in the stands to see his beloved Swiss National Team earn a silver medal in the 2013 World Championship.
"Once we got going, I was very happy to be coach of the Sabres here on the ice in the 'Globen,' " Krueger said. "The guys are feeling refreshed just to get a change of scenery and have a challenge that's rare and special in the National Hockey League. I believe it's going to be a really good week for us here."
About a dozen Swedish reporters and cameramen were on hand to chronicle the workout and talk to Buffalo's natives, and that number is likely to grow quite a bit by the game days.
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"It's an amazing experience for the guys from here to come home and play," Eichel said. "I remember going home to Boston for the first time and how special that was for me. For them, it's going to be an unbelievable experience, something really unique. It's awesome. I've never been to Stockholm before. It's a tremendous city and I look forward to seeing some more of it."
Eichel said veteran Marcus Johansson compiled a spreadsheet for his teammates on great sights in Stockholm. The city is a scenic collection of 14 islands where Lake Mälaren flows into the Baltic Sea.
"Try the food. Go out there," Johansson said. "There's so much to do. I'm not from here, but I know we're at a hotel by the water. It's really a beautiful city. All the old buildings. ... Everything about it is the whole package."
"A beautiful sunny day today to really see Stockholm at its best on the water where we're staying," Krueger said. "With the light being really good today, that actually helps you on your first day. You could see the energy was high on the ice. They'll fall into bed tired tonight, but we feel good with Wednesday, Thursday being full practice days, something rare in our season."
None of the Sabres' Swedes are from Stockholm but all have visited in the past. Eichel, who played in the 2014 World Juniors in Malmo, is one of several North American-raised Sabres looking forward to their first taste of Stockholm.
"Obviously, hockey is the reason we're over here, but hockey just gives you so many different experiences through your life," Eichel said. "It's given me so much and this is just another one that you have to be so grateful for. You get to travel the world doing something you love. I think it's going to be an awesome week for us, topped by two important divisional games."
"Guys were a little tired but it was good to go out and have a good time," Johansson added. "Not too serious but we had a good practice still. We want to have a good time, we want to get better, we want to work on things and we filled all those boxes today."