UNIONDALE -- Ryan Spooner missed Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers with flu-like symptoms, and was still wracked with a cough as he worked out on the ice Sunday afternoon with the rest of his teammates at Nassau Coliseum.
The 21-year-old made it through a full practice, though, and he should be back on track for a return to the lineup Monday against the Islanders. Carl Soderberg filled in for Spooner as the third line center against the Flyers, and had a quiet afternoon with a single shot on net in 17:17 of ice time.
“He’s better today. It was a flu bug, or whatever,” said Claude Julien said of Spooner. “It kind of crept in quickly [on Saturday], and we had to make a quick decision [to scratch him].”
But Spooner has also begun to understand what a different grind the NHL is compared to the AHL weekend-heavy schedule, or to the junior hockey leagues he dominated as a younger player. The travel and game schedule is more intense, and that goes doubly so in a year with a compacted schedule due to the Winter Olympics break.
The schedule and illness have worn Spooner down, and contributed to just two points in the highly-skilled center’s last eight games played. It’s clear his skating speed has slowed, and his playmaking hasn’t enjoyed the same zip as it did when Spooner was first called up to Boston.
It’s hard to decipher how much of that is illness, and how much of it is simply getting worn down by the constant competition the Bruins face on a regular basis.
“It’s never fun. I haven’t had an appetite, so I haven’t really eaten much. When you don’t eat, it’s tough to get the energy,” said Spooner. “I just try to battle through it, and get some rest. There’s nothing I can really do about it.
“The travel is a little different. I didn’t know we traveled so much. You’re always going, and getting in late . . . then getting up early. You’ve got to practice. It takes some time to get adjusted to it. In the [AHL] you get four days to rest up, and then you play three days in a row. It’s just different. [In the AHL] you rest up for four days after being tired for three days, and here you’re just always going. It’s a good learning experience.”
It’s all part of the learning experience for Spooner, and part of the reason why it can take multiple stints in the NHL before a player finally closes his grasp on a roster spot.